Rainbow Resource Centre in the '80s
When Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, it referred to homosexual acts in the home. Everywhere else, the law still criminalized homosexuals, homosexual acts, and information about homosexuals. In short, those now referred to as 2SLGBTQ+ had no rights.
Without legal protections, people could lose their jobs, families, and housing, be denied healthcare and face violence because of their sexual orientation without legal recourse. In the 1980s, with AIDS, discrimination, and stigmatization at a devastating peak, the need for human rights was critical.
Though the equal rights movement started in the 1970s, by the mid-1980s, community leaders and organizations, like Gays for Equality—which would become Rainbow Resource Centre—took activism from the street to the boardroom to pressure the provincial government to act.
In 1987, the government heard arguments for and against the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Human Rights Code. During the debate, opposers far outnumbered the queer community. With the media naming those who spoke, supporters risked everything.
After three intense days, on July 17, Manitoba became the third province to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation (gender diversity/identity would take another 30 years). On August 2, 1987, Winnipeg held its first official Pride. After the dust settled, countless individual legal battles went to the courts.
The '80s were busy for Rainbow Resource Centre. In addition to AIDS and the fight for rights, we co-led and supported numerous protests, challenged political candidates on their stance on 2SLGBTQ+ issues, moved twice—out of the University of Manitoba to share space with Gio's, and again to our own space at Confusion Corner—all while continuing to offer vital services and programming, including peer support, counselling, and a library.
This post is part of a 50th-anniversary series about our history of advocacy and service in Manitoba. To read about Rainbow Resource Centre in the 70s, click here.
"Canadian Human Rights Commission Sit-In"; Steffenson, Ken; undated. Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0. https://digitalcollections.lib...