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Photo Essay
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Pride and Prejudiced

A history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender milestones, in Vancouver and around the world.

Rob Peters 4 Aug

Rob Peters is navigating the harsh vicissitudes of life

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Vancouver Pride Parade, 2005. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Pride Society.

[Editor's note: On Sunday, August 6, Vancouver will celebrate human rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people with the city's 28th annual Pride Parade. The world has come a long way since Sweden decriminalized homosexuality more than 60 years ago. The timeline below documents the changing rights landscape in Vancouver and around the world.

Although much has been accomplished, there is much left to do. While this list largely documents progress, it's progress that is hardly reflected equally around the world. Here at home, we must acknowledge that changing rules is one thing and changing attitudes is quite another.

The list is necessarily partial and largely legal. We could compile a list as long as this one on the topic of AIDS alone. In Vancouver, the resistance to the creation of a public memorial for those who died from AIDS is a story in itself. We invite and encourage you to add other milestones and reflections in the comments section below.]




















  • Norway becomes the first country in the world to enact a law to prevent discrimination against homosexuals.
  • On February 5, police raid four gay bathhouses in Toronto and make more than 300 arrests. As a result, an estimated 3,000 people pour into the streets of Toronto to protest the raid. The incident becomes a catalyst in the development of Toronto's Gay Pride Week, which is now among the world's largest pride events.
  • The fifth Bi-National Lesbian Conference in Vancouver draws women from across Canada, and launches its first lesbian pride march.


  • The world's first Gay Games takes place in San Francisco.
  • Canada patriates its constitution, adding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15 of the Charter doesn't explicitly list "sexual orientation" as an invalid basis of discrimination under the law, but the section is designed to permit the addition of new grounds by the courts.


  • Angles, a magazine about Vancouver queer life, launches.


  • France prohibits discrimination based on lifestyle in employment and services.
  • The first memorial to gay Holocaust victims is dedicated.


  • Sexual orientation is added to the Ontario Human Rights Code as a prohibited ground for discrimination.
  • Canada Customs seizes a gay magazine called The Advocate from Little Sister's Bookstore, sparking a lengthy court fight that is eventually heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1994, and the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000.


  • Manitoba and Yukon add sexual orientation to their Human Rights Acts.
  • The Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein and Edmund White is declared not obscene by B.C. courts on May 3, and allowed past Canada Customs for the first time.


  • Sweden is the first country to pass laws protecting the social services, taxes and inheritances of gays and lesbians.
  • NDP Member of Parliament Svend Robinson (Burnaby) is the first Canadian MP to come out.


  • Denmark is the first country in the world to enact registered partnership laws (comparable to civil union) for same-sex couples, with most of the same rights as marriage.
  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission defines a homosexual couple as a family.


  • Gay Games III takes place in Vancouver, with 9,500 participants from around the world.
  • The first Dr. Peter Diary airs on CBC, bringing an engaging medical perspective and personal face to the much-misunderstood disease, AIDS.


  • Sexual orientation is added to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.


  • The World Health Organization removes homosexuality from its ICD-10 (the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems).
  • Canada lifts its ban on homosexuals in the military.
  • Sexual orientation is added to the human rights laws of New Brunswick and British Columbia.
  • Dr. Peter dies November 15 after 111 Dr. Peter Diaries. A film version of the diaries would win an Oscar nomination in 1994.
  • Sexual orientation is added to B.C. human rights laws as a prohibited ground for discrimination.
  • Current Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson is the first openly gay person to be ordained by the United Church.


  • Norway enacts civil union laws that grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, except for the right to adopt or marry in a church.
  • Saskatchewan adds sexual orientation to its Human Rights Act.
  • Xtra! West debuts in Vancouver.


  • The American Medical Association denounces supposed cures for homosexuality.
  • The Canadian Supreme Court rules that gays and lesbians can apply for refugee status based on sexual orientation.
  • Little Sister's Bookstore challenges Canada Customs on the issue of censorship in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Pierre Berton, Nino Ricci and Jane Rule are some of the prominent writers who speak in defence of the bookstore. The case eventually goes to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000.
  • The Dr. Peter Centre opens its doors in March.


  • Sweden legalizes registered partnerships (civil unions) with all the rights of marriage except for marriage in a church and adoption.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada rules that sexual orientation is be "read in" to Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Ontario allows gay and lesbian couples to adopt.
  • The Newfoundland Human Rights Act is amended to include sexual orientation.


  • South Africa becomes the first nation to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution.
  • Sexual orientation is added to the Canadian Human Rights Act, an anti-discrimination law that applies to federally regulated activities throughout Canada.


  • Glen Murray is elected Mayor of Winnipeg and becomes the first openly gay mayor of a large North American city.
  • The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act is amended to include sexual orientation.


  • Israel's supreme court recognizes a lesbian partner as another legal mother of her partner's biological son.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada rules that gay and lesbian couples are to have the same rights as heterosexual common-law couples.
  • Sexual orientation is included in the newly adopted Nunavut Human Rights Act.


  • Vermont becomes the first U.S. state to legalize civil unions.
  • The Canadian federal government passes a bill amending 68 federal statutes, including pension benefits, bankruptcy protection, income taxes, old age security and immigration, among others. Legal marriage, however, remains defined as being between a man and a woman.
  • Little Sister's Bookstore's case against Canada Customs is heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, which eventually rules in the bookstore's favour. The power of Canada Customs to stop "obscene" books and magazines from entering the country is curtailed by the court's ruling.


  • The Netherlands legalizes same-sex marriage.
  • NDP MP Libby Davies becomes Canada's first openly lesbian Member of Parliament.
  • UBC offers a minor in Critical Studies in Sexuality for the first time.


  • Controversial, openly gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn is assassinated by Volkert van der Graaf.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the Northwest Territories Human Rights Act.


  • The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down remaining state sodomy laws.
  • The British Columbia Court of Appeal unanimously orders the British Columbia government to sell marriage licenses to same-sex adult couples, and to register their marriages. It is the second province to legalize same-sex marriage, after Ontario.
  • The Anglican Church in the Greater Vancouver area (the Diocese of New Westminster) blesses its first same-sex union.


  • Massachusetts legalizes same-sex marriage in May, while 11 other U.S. states ban the practice through public referenda in the November elections. In Canada, 85 per cent of the population lives in a province or territory with same-sex marriage.
  • Sexual orientation is added to the "hate propaganda" section of the Canadian Criminal Code, making it illegal to propagate hate based on sexual orientation.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada rules that the federal government has the exclusive authority to define marriage, and that same-sex marriage is constitutional.


  • The UK introduces civil partnerships with rights equal to marriage.
  • South Africa's Supreme Court rules that it is illegal, under the country's constitution, to ban gay marriages.
  • Canada becomes the fourth country to officially sanction gay marriage nationwide, after Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
  • A B.C. Supreme Court judge in Nanaimo grants British Columbia's first gay divorce. Divorce had previously been defined as between a man and a woman.


  • An attempt to stage the first-ever gay pride march in Moscow ends with violence and mass arrests.
  • The first regional Eastern European Pride, Internacionala Pride 2006, takes place in Zagreb, Croatia.
  • The B.C. Ministry of Education agrees to add an elective social justice course that includes gay and lesbian issues to the high school curriculum.

Rob Peters is on staff at The Tyee.

Thanks to the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives,, Flaunting It! by Ed Jackson and Stan Persky, Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium,, Wikipedia, CBC and CBC Archives, the BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee,, and the Vancouver Pride Society. We welcome additions to and refinements of this list. For extensive Pride Parade photos, visit Flickr.  [Tyee]

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