Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,

[BRIEF NOTE] On the Conservative Party of Canada's embrace of gay rights

Tristin Hopper's National Post article "Warriors for gay rights: The Conservatives have become unlikely LGBT supporters" is somewhat disingenuous. Why would the Conservative Party have a reputation for being anti-gay? Apart from descending from mostly a Reform Party/Canadian Alliance that was not very pro-gay at all but had roots in , back in 2005 the Conservative Party voted massively against the Bill C-38, the party under then-leader and now-Prime Minister moreover going out of its way to oppose the legislation, trying to pass amendments that would neuter the law. 2005 was not a very long time ago at all, the Conservative Party has largely the same membership and leadership that it has now, and parliamentary recognition of the right to same-sex marriage was one of the biggest successes of the gay rights movement to date. Frankly, it would be more surprising if the Conservative Party wasn't still suspected, especially with stories intermittantly appearing in the press of Conservative MPs making homophobic statements and mention of gay rights being excluded from citizenship guides.

All that said, Hopper's central point--that the Conservative Party has not only come to turns with recent progress in gay rights, but is actively supporting gay rights and is likely to continue to support gay rights not least because the Conservative Party's ideological issues are more concerned with economic matters than cultural ones--is valid. For Canada's Conservative Party, there isn't necessarily a reason not to consider gay rights an issue, or to count non-heterosexuals as an important voting demographic. Glen McGregor's Ottawa Citizen article documenting how the Conservative Party did a mass E-mailing to non-heterosexual Canadians who signed a gay rights petition promoting the government's record on gay rights shows just that.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stood before the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations this month and outlined his aggressive agenda to “stand up to the violent mobs that seek to criminalize homosexuality.”

“Draconian punishment and unspeakable violence are inflicted on people simply for whom they love and for who they are,” he said.

That same day, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney touted Canada as a haven for gay refugees from Iran. Working with Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, Mr. Kenney’s office had fast-tracked 100 gay Iranians into Canada, saving them from possible execution.

[. . .]

“I can no longer shock people in the conservative movement when I tell them I’m gay – but I can shock gay people when I tell them I’m Conservative,” said Fred Litwin, and former vice-president of the Ottawa Centre Conservatives.

In June, Mr. Litwin was one of the organizers of the Fabulous Blue Tent Party, a gathering of approximately 800 gay Conservatives at Ottawa’s Westin Hotel that went until 3 a.m.

[. . .]

“It’s no secret that the Conservative Party hasn’t always been the biggest champion of gay rights, but public pressure, and quite frankly, society evolving has changed their views,” said Jamie Ellerton, an openly gay former staffer for Mr. Kenney.

“The Conservative Party, like the rest of society, has moved to be more supportive of gay rights in recent years, and I see that trend continuing,” he said.

Mr. Baird often supported same-sex marriage in his days as a Progressive Conservative member of Ontario’s provincial parliament. As foreign affairs minister, he has taken the fight for gay rights overseas.

[. . .]

In 2009, Mr. Harper spoke out against a Ugandan bill that promised to dramatically toughen criminal sanctions against homosexuality, which were already illegal in the African country.

“When I was at the Commonwealth conference, what was [Stephen Harper] talking about? The gays,” Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni said in 2010.

[. . .]
U.K. Tories are undergoing a similar evolution. In October, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to suspend aid to Commonwealth countries if they refused to abandon anti-gay legislation. Last summer, during a reception for LGBT representatives at 10 Downing Street, Mr. Cameron promised to legalize gay marriage by 2015. “If it’s good enough for straight people like me, it’s good enough for everybody,” he said.

Gay/conservative relations are not nearly as cordial in the United States, where large swaths of the Republican party view homosexuality as a sin. In May, Richard Grenell, an openly gay spokesman for Republican vice-president candidate Mitt Romney, stepped down after the campaign was barraged by criticism from socially conservative groups.

By focusing on free enterprise and individual liberties, instead of religious and cultural issues, Canada’s conservatives have been able to maintain a “much broader tent than the Republican Party in the United States and a stronger movement overall,” wrote Chris Reid, a gay former Conservative candidate, in an email to the Post.
Tags: canada, clash of ideologies, glbt issues, politics, popular culture
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