Case For Legal Recognition
Christianity reinforced the criminal laws that penalized gay men for centuries,
and which made legal and theological reform difficult. As we know, Lord Devlin
and his allies lost the debate about criminality. In 1969 Canada agreed that it
had no place in the bedrooms of the nation. Since that time, there has been a
long arduous struggle to secure acceptance under the law for gays and lesbians.
Although there has been a range of views between and within denominations,
many Christians have been prominent in opposing the movement for equality for
gays and lesbians. Some of us remember Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children Campaign”,
brought to Canada in the late 1970’s by Milton preacher Ken Campbell. During the
debate on Bill 167, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto caused his priests to exhort
parishioners to lobby their MPP’s to defeat the Bill, handing out postcards to
that effect during the Mass. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a conservative
Protestant group, has frequently intervened in Supreme Court cases dealing with
lesbian and gay equality, always in support of continuing legal discrimination.
At the extreme, there are those who advocate violence.
Even the Pope
himself has been the victim of Christian homophobia! The Reverend Fred Phelps
is known for tasteless picketing at gay funerals, and for his notorious website,
www.godhatesfags.com. If you visit this
remarkable website, you will see that Phelps condemns the Catholic church as “evil”
and a “fag church” because it permits homosexuals as members and even dares to
ordain celibate homosexuals.
Despite the presence of some of the worst
extremists in the Protestant denominations, given the hierarchical nature of the
Catholic Church and the conservative outlook of the current Pope, it should come
as no surprise that the reform movement has been largely confined to Protestant
churches. Protestant churches are based less on dogma and more on a tradition
of individual conscience, of questioning of dogma, of the importance of Biblical
authority and of “protest.” However, one of the most important advocates of reform
was the late Professor John Boswell, a Catholic who clearly disagreed with the
current teaching of the Vatican on this subject.
 See John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980) and John Boswell, Same-Sex Unions
in Premodern Europe (New York: Random House, 1994).