Given what Andrew Scheer said in the House back in 2005, you could argue that no one who cares about LGBTQ rights should ever vote for the Conservative Party or its leader.
And yet there are good reasons for members of the queer community to vote Conservative, despite what Mr. Scheer said during the fight over Bill C-38, which legalized same-sex marriage.
That fight was ugly. A cabinet minister in Paul Martin’s government resigned in protest, one of 32 Liberal MPs who voted against the bill. The measure would have failed, had NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs not come to its rescue.
In the midst of the debate, Mr. Scheer rose in the House of Commons to add his voice to the opposition.
Paraphrasing (butchering, really) an Abraham Lincoln saying, the 25-year-old rookie MP asked the House: “How many legs would a dog have if you counted the tail as a leg?"
"The answer is just four," he went on. "Just because you call a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg. If this bill passes, governments and individual Canadians will be forced to call a tail a leg, nothing more."
On Thursday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale released the video of that speech. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh found its “disgusting prejudice” so abhorrent that he vowed his party would never prop up a minority Conservative government.
Four years after C-38 became law, Grant and I married, so I fully understand the anger of those who condemn Mr. Scheer for giving that speech, and for refusing to this day to march in Pride parades.
Mr. Scheer “is a deeply conservative Christian believer and social conservative, with strong ties to the religious right in which he was nurtured politically and which is a key part of his base,” Douglas Elliott wrote on Facebook. “As a gay man, I do not trust him with my rights. I could never vote for a party led by him.”
Mr. Elliott served as lead counsel in a successful class-action suit brought by former public servants and members of the military against the federal government. They had lost their jobs because they were gay.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized in the House of Commons for that wrong and for laws that had once sent people to prison simply because they were gay. A series of stories in The Globe and Mail in 2016 had something to do with that settlement and that apology.
Why, then, would anyone who cares about LGBTQ rights vote Conservative? Here is why.
As Conservative leader, Stephen Harper strongly opposed same-sex marriage. But as prime minister, he upheld the law. Neither did he move to limit abortion rights, as Liberals had warned he would. Conservative governments do not claw back human rights. They never have and there is no reason to believe they ever would.
At the 2016 Conservative policy convention in Vancouver, Mr. Scheer voiced his support for ending the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Delegates overwhelmingly agreed.
After Mr. Trudeau offered his apology in the House, Mr. Scheer immediately rose to offer his party’s support, calling past discrimination “a terrible and unfair moment in the history of the federal government of Canada.” He went on: “Today’s apology must be an opportunity for all of us to recommit to the defence of human rights, not only here at home but around the world.”
The Conservative coalition consists of social conservatives, who oppose abortion and LGBTQ rights; foreign policy conservatives; pro-West, don’t care about the rest conservatives; and fiscal conservatives, who favour balanced budgets, low taxes and minimal regulation. Fiscal conservativism dominates Mr. Scheer’s agenda. Social conservatism plays no meaningful role.
No, Mr. Scheer will not march in a Pride parade. Not many Conservatives do. But if you worry that years of deficits by the Trudeau government have jeopardized Canada’s fiscal health, or that the federal government should take a tougher approach to Communist China, or that the Liberals have lost the moral authority to govern after attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, then Mr. Scheer might be your best choice.
As for the scary hidden agenda, there isn’t one. Anything you hear to the contrary is just fear mongering.
Although if you’d rather be horsewhipped than vote for someone who said what Mr. Scheer said back in 2005, I wouldn’t hold it against you one bit.