LGBT Tories organizing to change party policy on same sex marriage
A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tories says now is the time to drop language opposing same-sex marriagefrom Conservative party policy.
The party’s need to rebuild after the fall election provides an opportunity to get rid of a policythat’s offensive and hurts the party’s chances for growth, a group called LGBTories says and they are asking interim party leader Rona Ambrose for help.
“This policy is a significant obstacle to the acceptance of the Conservative message by voters who would otherwise be attracted to the party’s stance on economic, security, and foreign policy issues,” they wrote in a letter to her made public this week.
The group started about a year ago ahead of Toronto Pride, an event that saw — forthe first time — some Conservatives show up for the parade, including current Ontario PC leader and former Tory MP Patrick Brown and Tory MP Kellie Leitch.
Leitch is among those considering a bid for the federalparty leadership, a race likely to kick off in earnest at this spring’s Conservative policy convention.
That’s partially why LGBTories aim to send a delegation to that conventionto getthe policy off the books, group member Ed Lorenzen said in an interview.
“We’reina leadership contest where candidates are going to be jockeying for the leadership, so we have a window of opportunity here toinfluence the debate,” he said.
The party’s policy declaration, lastreviewed in 2013, says that a free vote in Parliament, not the courts, should determine the definition of marriage and that the party supports legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
It’s beennearlya decade since Parliament last tackled the issue. In 2006, the Conservative minority government introduced a motionasking fora law to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.
The motion failed. In the years since, including the four years of Conservative majority government, nolaw was ever brought forward.
LGBT Conservatives have gained moreprominence in recent years. Since 2011, conventionshave celebrated gay Conservatives at an event known as the fabulous blue tent. In 2013, more than 600 people showed up, including Laureen Harper.
That same year, 18 Conservatives helped pass an Opposition bill through the Commons that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered Canadians, though the bill never passed the Senate, in part because of efforts by some Conservatives tostop it.
When in government, the Conservatives also took a vocal standin support of gay rights internationally.
While the policy declaration isn’t binding on party leadership, that doesn’t make it any less problematic, Lorenzen said. While he understands there’s arisk that bringing it up could create a schism with socially conservative elements of the party, the 56-year-old says the time has come, nonetheless.