"Polls show that only 22 per cent of Canadians opposed same sex marriage, while 70 per cent approved..."
There’s a $30-billion budget deficit, we’ve abandoned our military allies, our energy sector is crumbling, and Alberta is literally aflame. Yet, at the Conservative Party of Canada’s annual convention next week, the biggest debate will be over same sex marriage. Yes, Ontario first legally recognized same sex marriage in 2003, and yes, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agreed, and yes, tens of thousands of same sex couples have been married, but here we are. Fortunately, this might be the last time the party embarrasses itself by debating an issue that the rest of the country has long forgotten. The motion in question proposes to drop the policy supporting a traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The Conservative Party desperately needs to abandon its dated and self-defeating opposition to same-sex marriage. I’m neither going to insult Canada’s LGBT community nor the readers’ intelligence by explaining why “gay is okay.” Someone still opposed to same sex marriage in 2016 isn’t going to be swayed by arguments based on ethics, morality, or socio-economic incentives. But electability might. Polls show that only 22 per cent of Canadians opposed same sex marriage, while 70 per cent approved, reflecting consistently growing support over the past decade. Three consecutive Parliamentary free votes in 2003, 2005, and 2006 have all asserted the legitimacy of same sex marriage. There is simply no imaginable future in which the Canadian public will support a repeal or even infringement of the status quo. So why is the party actively alienating tens if not hundreds of thousands of Canadians that otherwise agree with Conservatives on low taxes, limited government, and individual responsibility but are excluded by this losing battle against the LGBT community?
Every autopsy of the 2015 federal election agreed that the focus on social issues and identity politics was a failure. Half a year later have these lessons already been forgotten? No matter how far Stephen Harper’s government distanced themselves from social issues, and worked tirelessly for LGBT rights around the world, the policy declaration haunted them. Is there any merit to the arguments proposed against this motion? Some concerns of social conservatives are understandable, but misplaced. This motion isn’t pushed by ominous “special interests,” nor is it a conspiracy orchestrated by the “gay mafia”. It was brought by grassroots party members through their EDAs in Edmonton West and Fort McMurray. The group LGBTory has been outstanding in promoting LGBT issues in conservative circles, but let us not forget it consists of half a dozen unpaid volunteers with virtually no financial resources. If “special interests” are somehow involved, the term would more appropriately be applied to the groups opposed. First and foremost is the Campaign Life Coalition, active since 1978 with dozens of employees and locations across Canada, promoting anti-same sex marriage legislation, including through its own online newspaper, LifeSiteNews.com.
Likewise, any claim that this motion is a formal endorsement of same sex marriage is utterly unsubstantiated. Neither the original movers of the motion, LGBTory, or anyone else wishes to impose their personal values onto those that disagree — doing so would contravene the very spirit of conservatism. Individuals and faith organizations should have every right to define marriage as they see right and practice that beliefs freely. It is when the state is empowered to decide what is and isn’t appropriate that religious liberties are truly threatened. The Conservative Party needs to assert the right of MP’s to a free vote on matters of conscience — a right social conservatives should appreciate more than most.
To defeat this motion would only serve to give credence to accusations of a secret, homophobic agenda harboured by the party. Because why else hold onto this pointless, impossible, and self-contradictory declaration, if not to deny same sex couples’ right to marriage? Canada has moved beyond this issue — its time for the CPC to catch up.
Alexei Simakov is the outgoing president of the Conservative Association at McGill University.