Equality is the path to progress

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Sochi Olympics shine spotlight on LGBT issues

Samantha Emann

“Gay people who want to marry have no desire to redefine marriage in any way. When women got the vote they did not redefine voting. When African-Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to the table.” –Cynthia Nixon

By Samantha Emann, special to the Times-Herald

Major cities across Canada and all over the world are raising flags for the duration of the Olympics in Sochi. 

But they’re not just hoisting their own country’s flag. Many are raising the Rainbow Flag, in solidarity with the LGBT community currently facing discrimination and human rights violations in Russia.

The flag also serves as a reminder that the fight for equal rights and against discrimination is being fought everywhere, including on our own soil.

In Canada, we have legislation like the Civil Marriage Act, which affords homosexual couples the right to marry. This is progress, but it does not mean all of the work is done. 

When I lived in Toronto I always looked forward to Pride Week and the parade.  I wore my Ally pin proudly and still do.

Because I can’t resist I will say I find it interesting that Rob Ford has said he can’t change “the way he is” when asked why he won’t attend Pride and doesn’t want to fly the flag at the city hall. I wonder if he is referring to his substance abuse problems, ineptitude as mayor or his inability to not get caught doing something idiotic in front of a camera and not just his clear bias against all that the flag represents.

In spite of the current circus that is Toronto’s local governance, the city is in general an accepting and inclusive one.

I am glad to see that Moose Jaw has also taken steps to be more accepting. 

I applaud people like Jim Tenford and Joe Wickenhauser for their efforts to make sure that Moose Jaw is an accepting place. 

That being said, the city as a whole still has work to do, and it starts with realizing a few basic things. 

We are taught never to discriminate or treat people with less respect than any human being deserves no matter how inherently different they are from ourselves and that should not change on this issue.  So why then would we judge people for who they were born attracted to or what gender they identify with?

There are still people who are afraid to openly be themselves for fear of judgement or repercussions at their workplace or in the community.

People give all kinds of justifications as to why they think this type of inequality is fair. Some people cite religious reasons for their discrimination, and for some it is just ignorance. 

The cure for both of these, in my humble opinion, is education.  We have freedom of religion but it cannot also infringe on the rights or safety of others. That includes the right to marry. 

Obviously I am not speaking about every church, religious person or faith but there are a select few who forget the Golden Rule when it comes to interacting and speaking on the topic of the LGBT community.

We have freedom of speech and we should never hinder that, but I think that it comes with the responsibility of first making sure as much as possible that the opinions we voice are informed ones. 

At least then, when people spout hateful opinions based on prejudice or out-dated dogma we know to dismiss those opinions for what they are.

While same-sex marriage is legal and rightfully so, there is still stigma, violence and prejudice that needs to be addressed before Moose Jaw, or any city or country for that matter can truly call itself progressive.  I only hope the spotlight now being put on the atrocities happening in Russia puts pressure on its government to end the oppression of LGBT people in that part of the world.

Human rights should apply to all humans and that is what it boils down to. 

On this topic there is so much more I wish I could squeeze into this column.   As we continue to watch what unfolds abroad and at home, as always feel free to send me an email to continue this important discussion.

Organizations: Rainbow Flag, Golden Rule

Geographic location: Canada, Russia, Moose Jaw Toronto Sochi

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