Ottawa

Gay Power’s day in court

Julianne Labreche October 16 1978
Ottawa

Gay Power’s day in court

Julianne Labreche October 16 1978

Gay Power’s day in court

Ottawa

Back in January, 1976, when 50 smiling supporters of Vancouver’s Gay Alliance Towards Equality (GATE) marched outside the offices of The Vancouver Sun, Canada’s third largest newspaper, they carried victory placards: AS THE SUN SETS IN THE WEST. There seemed cause then for homosexuals to celebrate, since a British Columbia human rights board of inquiry had just ruled the newspaper guilty of discrimination in refusing to run an ad for Gay Tide, GATE’S liberation tabloid. But the advertisement has yet to appear and last week, after three subsequent court appeals, homosexuals marched again in both Vancouver and Ottawa as the case of the Gay Alliance vs. The Vancouver Sun opened before the Supreme Court of Canada, providing the first national legal airing of gay rights.

Even though GATE’S ad seems tame— “Subs, to Gay Tide, gay lib paper $1.00 for six issues. 2146 Yew St., Vancouver”—its content has been contested

ever since Oct. 23, 1974, when Maurice Flood, GATE’S spokesman, requested the classified ad be run. Arguments during the one-day appeal before the nine Supreme Court judges centred on whether the Sun, which prides itself as a family paper, had “reasonable cause” under Section 3 of the B.C. Human Rights Code to refuse Flood’s ad. GATE’S lawyer, Harry Kopyto, argued no, pointing out that the paper regularly runs movie ads depicting group sex and lesbianism. Clouding the issue, however, is the fact that the B.C. and other provincial codes do not cover sexual orientation as clearly as they do discrimination on grounds of color, creed or sexual difference. Earlier, the board of inquiry had ruled that refusal to publish the ad was prompted by “the personal bias against homosexuals and ho-

mosexuality on the part of various individuals within the management of the respondent.” The B.C. Court of Appeal later reversed that decision, stating that an “honest bias” constituted reasonable cause to discriminate.

Chief Justice Bora Laskin, recently returned to the bench after undergoing heart surgery, has reserved judgment on the gay rights case until perhaps December. As GATE awaits the final word, Flood is determined that, win or lose, taking the Sun to court has helped the cause of gays: “We have demonstrated

that we are serious and that the highest court in the land takes us seriously.” The only hint that observers had about which way the Supreme Court decision may go was the extreme impatience Laskin and the other eight judges showed toward the GATE lawyer’s rapid-fire arguments. If the gays lose, the west-coast paper will have its freedom of the press, and GATE will no longer be able to wave the other placard with which supporters celebrated their original victory, “We won our place in the Sun.” Julianne Labreche