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The Week That Was: A Presidential "Coming Out"

Posted: 05/13/2012 1:05 am

Happy Mother's Day! Or as it may be, Happy Mothers Day! When Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to endorse gay marriage on Wednesday, his newly announced stance changed the gay-rights debate overnight -- and not just in the States.

Many progressive Canadians expressed pride that same-sex marriage is already legal in Canada. As HuffPost contributor Josh Scheinert wrote in February in a now widely circulated blog titled "America, You Have a Gay Problem":

We [Canadians] aren't all that concerned about gay people. Our Conservative government has said it has no intention of re-opening a debate on same-sex marriage, which is legal. Abroad, it has become a consistent and strong advocate for gay rights. Contrary to some beliefs, no radical gay agenda came and hijacked our society. The sky hasn't fallen.

Canadians (and Americans) who support the traditional definition of marriage reacted with dismay to the president's statement. For if the President of the United States now reverses himself in this way, what does that repositioning say about those who still oppose same-sex marriage? Are they no longer part of the mainstream? Are they banished to the fringe? Indeed, does it make you a bigot to hold the view of marriage that President Obama espoused until this week?

We know that it has become (rightly) unacceptable -- in Canada and elsewhere -- to criticize someone for his or her sexual orientation, just as it is unacceptable to criticize a person for his or her race. Sun TV host and occasional HuffPost contributor David Menzies learned this to his peril last week, as a guest on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's radio show.

Among other things, Menzies harshly joked about former mayoral candidate George Smitherman's homosexuality and past drug use. This led to a Twitter storm over Menzies' appearance, including a sudden surge of interest in a blog Menzies had written for us back in March. In that post, Menzies identified a trend among disgraced public figures to find redemption with a public commitment to gay rights. Many -- including some in our own newsroom -- expressed disgust that we had run Menzies' earlier blog.

Menzies' blog -- which I approved for posting (yes go ahead, flame me @dcrittenden1 -- won't be the first time) -- fell (and still falls, I feel) within the bounds of fair comment. Menzies also wondered if there wasn't a double-standard at work, one in which those who openly believe in traditional marriage were now being unfairly punished (his example was Damien Goddard of Rogers SportsNet, who was fired after tweeting his support for traditional marriage). Menzies then concluded -- rather presciently now, in retrospect -- "It's abundantly clear that the first step toward remaking one's image as Mr. Nice Guy is reinventing oneself as an advocate for gay causes. I'll have to remember that next time I get into some hot water. I've even got a whiz-bang slogan: 'If it's good, it's gay; and if it's gay, it's good.'"

But whether you agree that this was fair comment or not (and truly, I welcome all civil feedback), it raised a interesting and productive dialogue here in Blog Town. When does commentary on these issues cross or even push the line?

We took this question to two of the most prominent gay-marriage activists on the continent
-- pro and con -- who agreed to take on the issue in one of our hugely popular "Change My Mind" blog debates. Nationally syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage in the U.S., and John Corvino, chair of philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit and a frequent campus speaker on LGBT, debated the statement: Same-sex marriage opponents are unfairly marginalized as bigots.

The two are co-authors of the newly published Debating Same-Sex Marriage. I highly recommend it as probably the most thoughtful, intelligent, and above all, civilized discussion on the issue from two opposing view points.

Last I checked, readers had decided Corvino was winning the argument by a margin of about 10 per cent.

No wonder the president felt politically safe in "coming out" for gay marriage.

* * *

In other goings-on, our Althia Raj discovered something that is going to make travellers feel that much more frikkin' happy as they navigate through the already highly pleasant rope lines, queues, and security checkpoints of modern airports. You know when officials pull you aside and ask you to strike the pose inside a full body scanner? Well, it turns out in addition to the dignity you feel putting your hands on your head while security personnel quietly point and laugh at your privates, you may also experience a "severe headache" and even "unexplained radiation burn." Why? Because these scanners were not independently tested before either the U.S. or Canadian governments implemented them. On top of this,

Passenger complaints obtained by The Huffington Post Canada suggest security screeners repeatedly breached protocol by forcing passengers -- including children, pregnant women and those with illnesses -- to enter full-body scanners rather than perform requested pat downs. Screeners also failed in a number of cases to inform travellers they could opt for a pat down instead.

When passengers expressed health and safety concerns, officers repeatedly disregarded their complaints or treated them rudely.

In other words, take the train.

Also: HuffPost Canada teamed up with University of King's College journalism students to produce a fantastic investigative series of a sketchy PEI immigration program -- one in which "for some foreign nationals, it became a way to purchase entry into Canada, by making 'investments' they would never recoup, in companies they might not even know."

Indeed, as a result of the series, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called for an investigation of the program. Good work, kids! Them's high marks indeed.

And on the blog rail, we held another Change My Mind debate, this one over the recent controversy caused by the E. L. James' book Fifty Shades of Gray. The aptly named Erika Lust, an award-winning erotic director and writer, debated with Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Porn Harms and Morality in Media, the statement: "Modern women should feel empowered by S&M porn." On this issue,our readers showed themselves to be a little less "forward" than on gay marriage -- last check-in showed Hawkins with a lead of seven per cent, arguing for the "disagree" side.

Finally, the jury in the horrific Tori Stafford child murder trial has found killer Michael Rafferty guilty of first degree murder. On all counts. In other words, super guilty.

While "justice" has been served, the gruesome facts of the case erupted in a debate in our blog rail as to whether the death penalty was appropriate in these types of brutal cases. Contributor Abubakar Kasim argued yes, while contributor (and now blog team intern) Daniel Portoraro argued no.

There may be a "Change My Mind" debate in that. But in the meantime, there is no academic point gained in celebrating the fact that Tori's killer is getting the minimum of what society feels he deserves. Our hearts go out to the Stafford family, who should be celebrating their daughter's near summer vacation, not this.

 
 
 

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