Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Sexual Orientation Definition:

An individual's preference in terms of sexual relationship with others - whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Related Terms: Homosexuality, Bisexual, Gay

Usage in statutes (Canada's Human Rights Act, s. 3) (emphasis added):

"For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted."

In McAleer v Canada, it was suggested that the term sexual orientation was too vague as it could be construed to include "paedophilia, incest, date rape (and) bestaility" but the Court disagreed saying that:

"... sexual orientation ... is a precise legal concept as it deals specifically with an individual's preference in terms of gender".

The voice of judicial wisdom rang loud in the United States District Court when Justice Spiegel wrote, in Equality Foundation of Cincinnati v. the City of Cincinnati:

"Gays, lesbians and bisexuals have suffered a history of invidious discrimination based on their sexual orientation.... Gays, lesbians and bisexuals have been stigmatized throughout history based on erroneous stereotypes and mischaracterizations regarding their sexual orientation. Gays, for example, have been characterized as effeminate mental defects with a proclivity towards pedophilia, and a host of other deviant sexual practices.... Homosexuality was long considered a mental illness....

"Homo-, hetero-, and bisexual orientation is a characteristic beyond the control of the individual. Credible and unrebutted testimony established that sexual orientation sets in at an early age, around 3-5 years, and is simply a matter of development beyond that stage.

"Sexual orientation, whether hetero- homo-, or bisexual, bears no relation whatsoever to an individual's ability to perform, or to participate in, or contribute to, society."

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