In the United States, there is no federal law against such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but at least twenty-two states and many major cities have enacted laws prohibiting it.
People around the world face violence and inequality—and sometimes torture, even execution—because of who they love, how they look, or who they are. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of our selves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse. Human Rights Watch works for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender peoples’ rights, and with activists representing a multiplicity of identities and issues. We document and expose abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity worldwide, including torture, killing and executions, arrests under unjust laws, unequal treatment, censorship, medical abuses, discrimination in health and jobs and housing, domestic violence, abuses against children, and denial of family rights and recognition. We advocate for laws and policies that will protect everyone’s dignity. We work for a world where all people can enjoy their rights fully.
During the last century laws regarding homosexuals changed significantly. During the 1960’s, homosexuality was a criminal offence. Men who were involved in homosexual activities were charged and imprisoned. Under the current same sex marriage law gays and lesbians possess considerable legal benefits and protections. Same sex marriage was legalized in July 2007. The new law created controversy in the Canadian Parliament and the public and many court cases challenged the law as being unconstitutional. During these trying times several controversial questions were brought in the open. Why did it take so long to legalize same sex marriage? Did religious views affect the new law? Did heterosexual families have any concern about legalizing same sex marriage? Important court cases helped lead to same sex marriage being legalized and there were key views in the federal legislator that made it official.
Legalization of same sex marriage was a defining moment in Canadian history because it helped protected the equal rights and freedoms of all citizens, it gave marriage and medical decision making to homosexual couples and it protected the minority homosexual population from any form of discrimination.
After 1969 decriminalization of homosexuality began to change to focus on sexual orientation and equality. Quebec became the first province to include sexual orientation in the human rights legislation in 1977. After homosexuality was legalized, society shifted focus on issues of sexual orientation and equality. Starting in the 1970’s, several legislative reforms were put in place to end discrimination against gays and lesbians. By the year 2000 significant legal changes protected gays and lesbians from discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment, immigration and military.
Citizens challenged the Charter under Section 15, arguing that the definition of marriage between a man and woman violates fundamental equally rights of gays and lesbians. This issue in time ended up in the courts. Several court cases decisions agreed that the traditional definition of marriage violates the Charter right to equality. Eventually a majority vote in the House of Commons allowed the legislation to be changed to include all couples. This was a milestone for all couples who supported same sex marriage. Thus the equal rights and freedoms of homosexuals were protected. At that time the Justice Minster Trudeau voiced his concern about individual freedom and sexuality.
After that he stated: It’s bringing the laws of the land up to contemporary society I think. Take this thing on homosexuality. I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different. matter. 1 Quote
Today all provinces and territories in Canada prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Immigration Act was amended allowing homosexuals as immigrants. In 1982 the Charter did not grant equality rights to homosexuals and lesbians so it was added to the Constitution. “In 1995 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in Egan v. Canada, that the Charter would be interpreted in a manner that prohibited discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation.” 2 Quote In 2004 gays and lesbians were protected against hate propaganda based on sexual orientation. Many court ruling focused on same sex marriage equality rights citing the Charter under Section 15(1)
Section 15 states: 15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. 3. Quote
After these new changes same sex marriage law now protects the equal rights and freedoms of homosexuals. This community now possess substantial legal benefits and protection under the new law. Same sex marriage couples are now protected and treated equally under the new laws.
After the legalization of same sex marriage the idea of given marriage and medical decision making benefits to homosexual couples the same status under the law as heterosexual marriages is fair. Homosexual couples are entitled to many of the same legal and financial benefits as married opposite-sex couples; it is simply part of giving homosexuals equal rights and allowing them to reap the same rewards that accrue to married people. ” In 1999, after the court case M. v. H., the Supreme Court of Canada declared that same-sex partners must also be extended the rights and benefits of common-law relationships.”4 Quote Because of the same sex marriage law homosexual couples now receive the same tax and estate advantages, the same rights to surviving children, the same community property rights, and the same health care benefits as heterosexual couples. In the past marriage benefits like joint ownership of property and several medical making decisions were not extended to all couples. Now that the law has been passed marriage and medical making decision making benefits are available to all couples.
The new law allows same sex marriage couples to benefits from the same laws as heterosexuals couples. Thus the new law affects critical medical decision-making. “For example if one member of a homosexual couple that has been together for twenty years get critical ill visitation rights may not even be allowed since the other partner isn`t considered a spouse or immediate family member.” 5 Quote In the past it was completely unfair to deny this privilege to citizens because their marriage relationship didn`t fit the government’s definition. Before the same sex marriage law homosexual couples were denied thousands of benefits that were only offered to heterosexual couples. Now because of the law same sex couples can reap the benefits of marriage and medical making decisions. Homosexual couples are protected.
Same sex marriage law now grants full protection for marriage and medical benefits to all couples. Same sex marriage laws changed over the years to benefit couples who felt they were being treated unfairly. Now same sex couples have marriage and medical decision making protection under the new law.
Same sex marriage couple faced many obstacle and the last being discrimination based on sexual orientation. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is now recognized as a form of discrimination under the Charter. “ The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race; national or ethnic origin; colour; religion; gender; age; and mental or physical disability.” 6 Quote Before 1969 acts between same sex couples were considered crimes. That same year the government passed bill legalizing private sexual acts between consenting adults. This was a breakthrough in ending the discriminations against homosexual couples.
“Under the new law the Canadian Human Rights Act forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation by federally-regulated employers, landlords and services. The law applies to the federal government, banks, broadcasters, the phone and telecommunications industry, railways, airlines, and shipping and inter-provincial transportation.” 7 Quote
Upon examining the Charter and Human Rights Acts one can clearly see that no protection existed for same sex couples as a result changes were made gradually to protect homosexual couples against any form of discrimination. Moving forward bans were lifted in the military and immigration. The Canadian Human Rights Acts was amended and now bans discrimination, including the unequal treatment of homosexual men, lesbians and bisexuals. All provinces and territories now include sexual orientation in their Human Rights Acts. In 1982 Canada received an amended Constitution,” including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. –The wording “sexual orientation” was not explicitly included in the list of groups listed in Section 15 of the Charter (Equality Rights), against which, “in particular,” discrimination is forbidden.” 8 Quote Now all provinces include sexual orientation in their legislation as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
The new law protects the minority homosexual population from any discrimination based on sexual orientation. Because of the new law same sex marriage couples are not subjected to past forms of minority discrimination.
The legalization of same sex marriage was a defining moment in Canadian history because it helped protect the equal rights and freedoms of all citizens, it gave marriage and medical decision making to homosexual couples and it protected the minority homosexual population from any form of discrimination. During the past 50 years many significant court cases challenged the law, the passion of the people eventually put the wheels in motion for drastic legal changes that help protect all citizens. For many participants lessons were learned and new law changes eventually granted s ame sex couples the equal protection as heterosexual couples.