LGBT Tories or­ga­niz­ing to change party pol­icy on same sex mar­riage

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.

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