Sexual orientation and the law, an examination of the discourse on two Federal Acts in Canada

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Lucas, Timothy J.
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This thesis examines the place of law and rights-based legal reform within the struggle for gay and lesbian liberation. Specifically, I explore whether reformist strategies involving engagement with the law can offer evidence of a shift in the current hegemonic order over ideas about gays and lesbians in modern Canadian society. Through an analysis of two recent enactments by Parliament that placed the phrase 'sexual orientation' into Canadian law--Bill C-41 (1994) and Bill C-33 (1996)--I address the problems and possibilities of counterhegemonic discourses in confronting those of dominant ideologies which collectively shape and impact upon issues of concern to gays and lesbians. This study utilizes the discursive data found through Parliamentary debate and media and organizational documentation concerning these legislative acts in the attempt to uncover aspects of how gay and lesbian sexualities 'fit' into the configuration of law and society. It is revealed that legal rights reform and the political context from which it emerges do offer some opportunities for transcending the hegemony enforced through homophobia and heterosexism. For gays and lesbians, however, evidence of resistance to the ideas of progressive change is also implicated in the form and discursive elements of minority rights law and the political process of legal reform. I conclude that while gay and lesbian movements will not see the demands and desires of the liberationist project fulfilled solely through the present legal system, recognition of the varied exigencies of rights-based legal strategies and their social repercussions should assist in providing invaluable insight for activists and other agitators against the status quo in both legal and non-legal domains.