At Crown Tourney on Saturday, September 4, 2011, An Tirians once again took to the list field to fight for the cause of Inspirational Equality -- the right of all couples, regardless of gender, to enter Royal Lists in the SCA.
With the full support of Their Majesties An Tir--Queen Dagmaer and King Thorin--three same gender couples presented themselves in the processional, requesting permission to fight in An Tir’s Crown Lists. As arranged in advance, the Crown publicly and respectfully refused entry to each couple, citing the restrictions of Corpora, the governing conerstone of the SCA. Corpora section IV.B.1 states, “Each competitor in a Royal Lists must be fighting for a prospective consort of the opposite gender.” The Inspirational Equality movement is asking that the last four words of that subsection be struck.
King Thorin, while refusing the three couples entry to His Royal Lists, expressed His regret at being bound by the Corpora requirement. He made it clear, however, that if such a time comes that the rule is changed, all couples will be welcome in His lists. Further, the Crowns of An Tir publicly granted Their Royal endorsement to the proposed motion to change Corpora section IV.B.1. The Inspirational Equality movement proposes this rule change on the grounds of honor, fairness, and modern legal right in the nation of Canada. They hold that because Crown Lists require competitors to enter in pairs, the opposite gender consort requirement is discriminatory against a class of people and should be changed so that Crown Lists may allow free and fair access to all.
The three couples petitioning for entry in the An Tir lists were Maestro Eduardo fighting for his husband Lord Giovanni; Mistress Ariel fighting for her lady Lady Sarah, and Lady [Sir] Bolverk fighting for her friend Mistress Bronwen. For the Crown Lists presentation, the three couples marched in the processional in their order of precedence, which happened to put them together in line (Ariel, squired to Bolverk, had the right to march with her knight).
The carefully planned presentation took on a ritual quality as each couple approached the Crowns, made their petition, and was refused. Maestro Eduardo with his lord Giovanni approached first, stating, “Your Majesty, as a Pelican of Your counsel, I ask permission to fight for the one who truly inspires me, for my husband, for the father of my children…” The queen and many members of her court were moved to tears by Eduardo’s very personal appeal. His heartfelt request and the King's reluctant refusal evoked the poignant emotion at the heart of this issue, as well as the uncomfortable conflict between King’s Word and Corporate rules. As the King went on to express his support for Eduardo to take his request to the Board, the assembled populace broke into applause. Ariel then repeated the same petition, asking as a Laurel of His Majesty’s counsel to be granted the right to fight for her partner and inspiration in the Crown List. Again the populace applauded the would-be entrants and Their Majesty’s support for an appeal to the board.
Lady [Sir] Bolverk approached last, with Mistress Bronwen, Kingdom scribe of An Tir on her arm. “Today, I fight inspired not by my usual carnal desires,” Bolverk began, and had to wait for a roar of laughter to subside. “Today I am inspired by a woman who works tremendously hard for the kingdom, as well as being a friend who personally inspires me greatly. Therefore, as a Knight of Your counsel, I would make an unusual request: May a Muslim fight for a Christian?” Bolverk’s ironic petition got the loudest applause of all, highlighting as it did the way society rules single out some identities over others. The King once again regretfully refused entry on the grounds that, whatever His feelings on religion, same gender inspirations are not allowed.
Many An Tirians were present for the action and readily voiced their opinions. Her Excellency Beregaria de Monfort expressed her support, saying, “It was lovely, elegant, heartfelt and a shame that Their Majesties had to graciously and regretfully refuse them.” Master Sigmund Helmshmied of The Barony of Three Mountains commented on the power of a public Royal refusal: “I support the cause, and they did it in the right way. I’ve never seen any couple refused the right to participate in Crown Lists.”
Not everyone in An Tir is fully behind the change. Mistress Melusine d’Argent of Blatha an Oir supports the rule change herself, but acknowledged the controversial nature of the issue: “I’m all for it—I imagine it may piss some people off, but change always does.” Others, such as Sir Fiach Ulfredson of the Barony of Madrone, support changing the rule but want to make sure it does not create hardship. “I think it’s an excellent idea. My only concern is that there should not be duplicate regalia as this would be a burden to the kingdom.” Mistress Sara de Bonneville of Blatha an Oir had not yet made up her mind. “I’m glad they did it. It is an important point. I’m not altogether decided personally, but I’m provisionally in favor of it. I am happy for the theater of it.” Only one person could be found who voiced opposition to the rule change—a landed baron who chose not to be identified and declined to comment for the record.
One major point of controversy on this issue has been questions of period precedence. However, as the documentation of period same gender ruling pairs has expanded and gained greater circulation, support for same gender inspirations in the SCA has increased (a list of historical examples can be found on the Inspirational Equality facebook page). For people like Mistress Rowenna de Manning of Madrone, historical research is key: “I support the whole movement, and I know there is precedent for same sex leaders.”
Lord Ogier de Corbeil is an An Tirian who was originally against the change--in fact, he felt so strongly that he created an opposing Facebook discussion (link below). However, when approached personally by the leaders of IE, he agreed to meet and talk, and subsequently changed his position. He wrote publicly about his change of heart on his own discussion page as well as on the IE facebook page, and his original "Inspirational Equality--Open Discussion" page continues as a truly open forum where all sides of the debate are represented. For Lord Ogier, a big part of his shift was simply information: “When I challenged the folks leading the charge on this concern, they rose admirably to the occasion with not just one example of same-sex rule in history, but a list of them. As a result of this, my mind was moved.” Lord Ogier likens allowing same gender couples into Royal Lists to allowing women on the field, which is widely supported despite only a handful of documentable examples in period.
In addition to period precedent, themes of human rights and inclusion play a major role in this fight. Viscountess Renee de Josselin of Tir Righ, Former Anti-discrimination Human Rights Secretary of the Ontario Provincial Government, commented on the civil rights aspect of the issue, saying “[The board] better get their act together and do the right thing and allow [the couples] to participate fully. If they paid for their membership, they should be allowed to fully participate.” When Queen Dagmaer was asked about her experience promoting the rule change at the most recent Pennsic War, She explained, “we emphasized repeatedly that this is about inspiration in all forms, and that as a society we value inclusion — people were very receptive to this message.” T-shirts available on the Inspirational Equality website list many reasons for the change, among them the fact that the SCA would never tolerate discrimination against mixed race couples or women fighters.
An Tirans interviewed at Crown last weekend also cite traditions outside historical precedent on which the society draws, such as the twenty-first century value of fairness, or chivalric themes from modern-era literature. For example, Duke Owain ap Einar spoke emphatically on the necessity to change the rule simply because it is the right thing to do--no other reason needed--while Viscount Sir Abu Nur Rustan ibn Abdallah pointed out that because “the SCA is based on a romantic Edwardian ideal, all people should be allowed to fight for who inspires them.”
Overall, assisted by the enthusiastic backing of the current Crowns, An Tirian support for allowing same gender couples in Royal Lists is rapidly expanding. September Crown saw the greatest fervor yet, with solidarity demonstrated through multiple banners in the Crown processional, dozens of armbands on retinue and populace alike, and nearly 50 signed postcards to the Board collected at the event. Inter-kingdom support is expanding as well—one indication of the growing influence of the movement is the ballooning of the Inspirational Equality facebook community from 300 to nearly 850 in the last six weeks, with signatories on the ongoing petition representing 17 of the 19 Kingdoms of the Knowne World.
As with many significant political changes, however, the leaders of Inspirational Equality feel a cultural shift such as this will come about as much through the influence of personal connection as through research, advocacy, and political process. The history of other movements has shown that powerful personal experiences are what truly change hearts and minds--one memory of the Queen rendered speechless by tears at refusing entry to the father of Eduardo's children; one story told among the An Tirian knights of how Sir Crisiant, one of their own now living in Drachenwald, cannot fight for her legally married spouse; one member of the populace of Gyldenholt, touched by the leadership of the Master Giles Hill and Master Giuseppe Francesco da Borgia, stepping up in April as the first official same gender baronial leaders--will do more to influence the direction of public opinion than postcards, campaigning, and dry procedural motions ever can.
Because of the powerful and far-reaching impact of barring from the lists several prominent and long-contributing members of the kingdom, the organizers of Inspirational Equality consider the action at An Tir Crown on Saturday to be a resounding success.
Moving forward from Saturday’s tournament, the next goal for the Inspirational Equality movement will be to get on the agenda of the upcoming Board meeting so that they may propose a motion to change Corpora. The next Society board meeting will be held October 15 in the city of Seatac near Seattle. The group has requested an agenda spot and are awaiting a response.
For pictures of the An Tir presentation and a personal account of the presentation as related by Ariel de Courtenay, please visit the Inspirational Equality facebook page at the links below.