Why banning Conservative LGBT groups is the wrong way to go

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TORONTO - In the past several weeks, there has been considerable discussion about the participation of a Conservative Party group, called LGBTory, in Pride celebrations in a number of Canadian cities. 

Earlier this summer, they marched in the Toronto pride parade with Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown leading the delegation -- the first time a PC leader has ever participated. Among some activists, however, the participation of LGBTory has been met with suspicion. A petition was circulated recently calling on Capital Pride organizers to ban the group from marching in the Ottawa pride parade. 

Looking at the stances taken by a number of Conservatives (like Patrick Brown) on issues important to the LGBT community, it easy to see why some people question their sincerity. In recent years, the PC leader has voted against adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of protections under the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. On other occasions, he has supported repealing marriage equality. And at the federal level, the Conservative Party’s Policy Declaration still proclaims its commitment to legislation defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Anger at such political positions is understandable. There is good reason to oppose such outdated stances held by the Conservative parties at both the provincial and federal levels.

However, jumping so quickly to condemn groups like LGBTory may not be the best way to go. Instead, it might be more productive to encourage efforts to create inclusive politics across ALL partisan boundaries.  Achieving ‘lived equality’ – our vision at ProudPolitics – means that LGBTIQ+ citizens should be accepted in all parties and in every walk of life. That includes the Conservative Party. We encourage strong and competent leaders to come forward to serve, no matter their political affiliation.  

Of course, it is up to groups like LGBTory to push their party as a whole along the route of change and openness. They - and their provincial and federal party leaderships – will have to prove that their intentions go beyond strategic posturing for the sake of getting a piece of the ‘gay vote’. There must be moves to amend policies that oppose marriage equality.  Future votes on issues surrounding protection from discrimination will have to shift from past stances.

As anyone who has ever come out to family or friends knows, though, change is not always easy.  Whether on the personal or political levels, it is usually something that happens in stages and can take time. Partisans who fly the NDP or Liberal banner, for instance, would do well to remember that not so long ago, those parties also needed pushing on these issues.  In every case, it has taken the determination and commitment of leaders on the inside of organizations to get the job done.

At ProudPolitics, we encourage everyone in the community to give LGBTory a chance to show what they can do. We wish them every success in their goal to become an LGBTIQ+ voice inside their party and a Conservative voice within the LGBTIQ+ community. 

Let’s all keep the dialogue open and hold back from rush judgements. We look forward to working with candidates, groups, and parties of all stripes. 

About ProudPolitics Canada

ProudPolitics is Canada’s only multi-partisan LGBTIQ+ organization aimed at diversifying the face and voice of Canada’s politics by helping emergent openly LGBTIQ+ leaders realize their potential to serve and win elections to all levels of government through candidate support, fundraising, networking, and outreach.

For more information visit: www.proudpolitics.org

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Contact:

Curtis Atkins, Ph.D.
Deputy Executive Director (Research)
[email protected]
647.772.2172

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ProudPolitics August 2021 Panel Webinars

ProudPolitics is excited to announce that we will be holding a series of webinars for the month of August! There will be three webinars in this series, each webinar are as follows:

  • Running Out: Conversations About Being A 2SLGBTQ+ candidate - Topics of discussion will include identity politics, campaign challenges, and how the political landscape has changed for 2SLGBTQ+ candidates.
  • Student Groups and 2SLGBTQ+ Advocacy - Topics of discussion will centre around how post-secondary institutions have addressed 2SLGBTQ+ concerns. Hear from 2SLGBTQ+ student organizations on how their educational institutions impact their advocacy.
  • Representation in Politics - We will discuss the importance and impacts of 2SLGBTQ+ representation in Canadian politics, whether there have been improvements, and identifying things that Canadian parliament can do better.

Please RSVP for all three webinars here, and spread the word! By amplifying the stories and experiences of 2SLGBTQ candidates, we can identify ways to achieve greater representation for our communities in office.

ProudPolitics is hiring | for Summer 2021!

Attention university students, ProudPolitics is hiring for Summer 2021!

Are you looking for meaningful and exciting projects to take on in the summer?  ProudPolitics is looking for three talented summer interns to join our team.

For more details, check-out the opportunities in our Careers section.

By CURTIS ATKINS, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director, ProudPolitics

The posting of a 14-year-old video of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer declaring that same-
sex unions were unequal to the “natural” marriages of heterosexual couples by Liberal MP Ralph
Goodale was, of course, a well-timed political move. With a federal election now just a couple of
months away, it’s no surprise that politicians are digging up their opponents’ dirty laundry and
hanging it out for voters to see. Whatever the Liberals’ political motivations may be, though, the
fact remains that Scheer has done little to prove his views have evolved from the anti-LGBTQ
sentiments he expressed in the House of Commons in 2005.

The content of what was said in the video is itself no great revelation. It’s a matter of public
record that Scheer, like most members of Stephen Harper’s Conservative caucus, voted against
the Civil Marriage Act when it was proposed by the Paul Martin government. The queer
constituency group in Scheer’s own party, LGBTory, was cool to him when he was running for
Conservative leader for this very reason, among others.

In the clip circulated by Goodale, Scheer says that marriage equality can never be seen as a right
under the Charter and that the procreation and raising of children is the “essence” and “primary
focus” of marriage. If two women or two men cannot produce children on their own, then their
unions are “contradictory” to nature and therefore do not qualify as a marriage. In his rather
bizarre analogy, a dog’s tail cannot be seen as a fifth leg just because someone wants to call it
that.

Scheer went even further, though, characterizing marriage equality as a threat to religious liberty. In a forerunner of the bigoted baker wedding cake controversies of recent years, Scheer told the supposedly sad tale of a Knights of Columbus group in British Columbia that was sued after refusing to rent out an events hall for a same-sex wedding reception. In the Conservative MP’s mind, requiring people to treat others with dignity and equality amounted to persecution. Freedom of religion apparently must mean freedom to discriminate.

The things Scheer said were standard fare for social conservatives at the time in Canada; they still are among Christian fundamentalists south of our border. What made his video so jarring to our ears this week is the fact that such talk has (mostly) passed from the realm of acceptable public debate in this country.

The official response from the Conservative Party’s campaign communications team to the video’s resurfacing was to repeat the by now worn-out line that their leader would defend the law as prime minister and has no desire to re-open the debate around marriage equality. Essentially, that’s like saying: We lost that fight and don’t want to have it again. Scheer’s quiet backing for dropping the “one man, one woman” marriage plank from the Conservative platform in 2016 amounted to the same. 

By no means does simply avoiding the issue signal that Scheer’s views have changed in any significant way over the last decade and a half. His opposition to extending civil rights and criminal code protections to transgender Canadians—Bill C16—as recently as 2016 suggests quite the opposite. His personal boycott of pride parades only seems to further confirm a continuing commitment to the belief that, even if the law says so, LGBTQ Canadians are not really equal to other Canadians.

Every individual is entitled to their personal beliefs, but when an individual seeks to hold the highest elected office in the country, their beliefs have policy ramifications—they take on public importance. 

Of course, it is true that people and parties change. The viewpoints and positions taken in the past don’t necessarily mean they’re still adhered to in the present. But another part of the Conservative response to the release of this old video gives LGBTQ Canadians ample reason to question whether they would be viewed as equal citizens under the government of a Prime Minister Andrew Scheer.

As the Conservative Party was at pains to point out this week, a lot of Liberal MPs also opposed marriage equality in the past, including Goodale, the circulator of the video. The fact that the opposition party rather foolishly answered the Liberals’ charge by attempting to redirect attention to the latter’s past mistakes, however, rather than apologizing for Scheer’s own bigotry just screamed to Canadians: We’re not the only homophobic ones!

This is not a debate about who was most eager to discriminate against and demonize LGBTQ Canadians in the past. This a question of who has evolved politically and come to appreciate all Canadians as equal and valuable parts of our country’s social fabric. 

Has Andrew Scheer evolved? Has the Conservative Party? 

Only the Tories and their leader can answer that question.

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