Change of heart?

Lesbian porn may be too degrading to allow into Canada, after all.

There is dissent within the Women’s Legal Education And Action Fund – LEAF – on whether to forge ahead with a scheduled presentation to the Supreme Court Of Canada that rough-and-tumble homo porn may be acceptable.

But the law professor who has spent two years working on the document for the Little Sister’s censorship case – filed earlier this year – is downplaying the talk and says everything should work out fine.

“The buck stops with the National Legal Committee,” says Karen Busby, a law professor at the University Of Manitoba. “Unless there’s a radical change [its members are behind her] unanimously.”

Some 14 lesbians sit on that board, which determines what court documents get filed.

But Busby will admit concerns have been expressed. “Well, it’s hard for me to really talk about these politics in detail…. We’re discussing it internally. Dissension is to be expected.”

The brief has been characterized as a make-good project to lesbians and gay men.

LEAF led the charge against violent straight pornography in 1992 in what’s now known as the Butler decision, which added a new category to what’s obscene. “Degrading” and “dehumanizing” porn is now banned.

The first two casualties were gay.

A judge ruled that vanilla sex between gay strangers was degrading – and therefore illegal. And an SM story with pictures in the lesbian magazine Bad Attitude was immediately declared obscene.

Busby’s been working on some form of redress. Her Little Sister’s factum states that Canada Customs officials shouldn’t have the power to decide what is obscene (the Vancouver bookstore’s shipments from the US are targeted at the border). The document also states that explicit materials should be viewed in context. While that might lead to double standards, that’s okay: SM porn would be fine if viewed by lesbians.

Says Busby: “I’d be very surprised if I was asked to pull the factum.”

But she admits it’s been done before. When elected, the new Tory government in Ontario decided to change its position on the seminal M versus H spousal rights case. A Queen’s Park document was pulled that admitted that restricting the definition of “spouse” to opposite sex couples is unconstitutional.

“So it can happen. It’s virtually inconceivable.”

LEAF’s new national chair, Marilou McPhedran, is said to be the force behind the change of heart. A woman reached at McPhedran’s home said she was in and a message was left, but McPhedran did not return the call.

Busby travelled the country in the last year – Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver – talking to lesbians about what LEAF’s position should be.

“The only other thing I’d say is that if some of these members have problems, that’s not surprising.”

She points to the G case, in which a pregnant mother sniffed solvents. There was an attempt to place her in protective custody until the child was born – hopefully healthy. Leaf argued against state intervention, but it took a lot of talk for members to agree.


Busby says she attended a LEAF Manitoba gathering a couple of weeks ago where the Little Sister’s case came up.

“People had a lot of hard questions about it, misconceptions. By the end of the meeting, a lot of people were fine about it.”

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