June is widely recognized as Pride month. It is a time to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which were a series of spontaneous and violent demonstrations initiated by the gay community in response to an early morning police raid that took place on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City.
Prior to the riots, police raids on gay bars were quite frequent and often involved violence and physical force. They are widely considered as one of the single most important events in the gay liberation movement and the ongoing fight for gay and lesbian rights.
“We must look beyond all the glitz and glamour of Pride events and festivals,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Pride is an important time to remember the obstacles and to celebrate the many achievements of the TBLGIAPQQ2S (trans, bisexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, asexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, two spirited) community.”
Throughout the years, such accomplishments have included:
- The decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1969;
- The addition of sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1986. When the Code first took effect in 1962, it was the first of its kind in Canada because it dealt with diverse forms of discrimination;
- The removal of homosexuality as a mental illness from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization in 1990. This paved the way for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Today, it is commemorated annually on May 17.
- The official inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996;
- In 2005, Canada became the first country in the Americas to legalize same sex marriage. To date, there are fourteen countries in the world that legally recognize same sex marriage;
- The incorporation of discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012; and
- The passage of Bill C-279 in the House of Commons, which officially extended human rights protections to transgender and transsexual people in Canada in 2013. Kathleen Wynne – Canada’s first openly gay First Minister – was also sworn in as Premier of Ontario in 2013.
Members of OPSEU’s Rainbow Alliance are-en-ciel (RAA) are once again prepared to embark on an adventure-packed summer session with various Pride events and festivals scheduled across the province. They are energized, empowered and inspired by members, locals and communities who have joined in the ongoing fight for equal rights for all.
The labour movement continues to play an important role in this fight:
- to establish minimum wages and maximum working hours;
- to ensure that all workers have paid vacation, sick leave, and days to protect well-being;
- to challenge inequity within workplaces AND communities; and
- to support the spirit of Pride throughout Ontario, every day.
For more information on Pride events happening in your local community, contact the RAA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on Toronto Pride events (from June 20-23), click here (please be advised of mature content).