Following a successful first appearance at this year’s annual Toronto lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans(gender/sexual), queer/questioning (LGBTQ) Pride Parade the upstart LGBTory (also known as Rainbow Conservatives of Canada) will host their first pub night tomorrow (22 June 2015) and I will be there to catch every minute.
I have been involved in politics a long time now. I have particularly been involved in LGBTQ politics for even longer. I was part of the founding membership of one of this country’s first gay-straight alliance on the eve of what would be one of the most important debates in Canadian history. I remember where the six parties stood at the time. Just a day over ten years ago, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party were unequivocal in their support. This was criticized by some moderates who preferred the Liberal Party approach to a partial whip that would guarantee victory or the free votes of the Bloc Quebecois. The Conservative Party of Canada…?
History has demonstrated future Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s position as a defender of ‘traditional marriage’. But four Conservatives stood for equality in marriage. Belinda Stronach (who would later join the Liberal front bench), James Moore, Gerald Keddy, and Jim Prentice would cast their votes with Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government. These for MPs (and John Baird) laid the groundwork for a Conservative movement in Canada that believes in personal freedom of sexuality. LGBTory is their legacy. And whether it was his intention or not, Scott Brison’s initial run for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada let Canadians know that there is such a thing as a gay Conservative.
Make no mistake; this landmark group is well aware that the vast majority of the LGBTQ community identifies with another political party. They know they have their work cut out for them. But they are up to the task. The other parties; notably the Liberal Party and the NDP, should welcome them to the fray. No longer can these parties claim to be the only parties that have the LGBTQ community’s best interest at heart. And that is a good thing. The LGBTQ has never been of one mind when it comes to politics, nor should it be. Our community is as diverse as any other in Canada.
Full disclosure: I joined the Liberal Party of Canada in 2003 in large part because they were a party fighting for equality in marriage. I did not if I would marry a man or a woman but I wanted to be able to marry either should I choose to. The precursors to the modern Conservative Party of Canada were not willing to fight for this right. However, the Conservative Party than maintain status as Canada’s governing party has demonstrated a willingness to defend equal rights for the LGBTQ community both here and abroad. Opposition parties should never view such notions as a bad thing.
Much like their Log Cabin cousins to the south, ‘Rainbow Conservatives,’ are coming out in Canadian politics. And in October they will be given a chance to prove just how loud that voice can be when they put well known LGBTQ activist Julian DiBattista on the ballot in Toronto Centre, which houses the largest ‘gay village’ in the country.