Delegates to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) National Policy Convention in Vancouver voted overwhelmingly today to end its opposition to same-sex marriage. By a vote of 1036 – 462, delegates approved a policy proposal to remove the statement “We support legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman” from the party’s official Policy Declaration while maintaining language affirming the constitutional rights of religious institutions.
Capping a months-long lobbying effort by LGBTory Canada and our allies in Alberta led by Joseph Heap of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake and Natalie Pon of Edmonton West, 70% of the delegates to the full convention’s plenary session approved the proposal following an emotional debate. The CPC now recognizes the validity of same-sex marriage more than a decade after it became legal in Canada.
During the weekend debate, several parliamentarians expressed their support for the initiative. MP Maxime Bernier spoke at the plenary session in favour of the resolution: ““It’s about us and it’s about telling to Canadians that you can love who you are, who you want, and that you can be in love, and I hope that also having fair policies at the federal level”.
Calgary MP Michelle Rempel also spoke to the assembled delegates in favour of the proposal: “The Conservative party is the party of rights for all Canadians. It is long past time that we passed this resolution”.
Former cabinet minister Peter McKay, who voted in favour of the resolution, said “It’s a message of modernization and moving on, and accepting. We have to send that signal that we want everybody to work with us to build a better country. So I’m thrilled with the outcome.”
Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party, spoke after the vote saying “the ultimate position should be that the state has nothing to do with the defining of marriage… People can define marriage as they like.”
At the initial social policy breakout session debate on Friday May 27, the policy modification by a vote of 279-143 following a tense debate. M. Bernier and MPs Kellie Leitch, Kelly McCauley and Robert Sopuck attended the breakout session to help ensure that it moved to the plenary session, as did Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, who was attending the convention as a delegate.
LGBTory would like to thank everyone who worked hard on this initiative, particularly our Alberta friends whose efforts were crucial for achieving success. We would also like to thank our many supporters in the CPC caucus, especially Michelle Rempel, whose unwavering support has kept us focused on achieving this successful outcome. Special thanks to Doc von Lichtenberg (President), Eric Lorenzen (VP – communications), Todd Langis (Secretary) and Benjamin Dichter (Chairman) of LGBTory Canada who have been working tirelessly for months to help bring this initiative to a successful conclusion. Finally, thank you the hundreds of CPC convention delegates from coast to coast whose support made this possible.
Delegate Al Siebring, a social conservative from British Columbia, gave an eloquent speech at the plenary session. He said, “I’m a Social Conservative and I’m standing in favour of this. The Supreme Court has set out a definition of marriage. I don’t agree with it. There’s all kinds of courts in this land that have made all kinds of decisions that I don’t agree with. (But) the second half of this resolution allows me the freedom to not agree with it; (and) allows my religious institutions not to agree with it. Please support this. It’s a workable compromise.”
We agree with Mr. Siebring that the CPC has taken a step that has given its Policy Declaration broader appeal to all Conservatives and to all Canadians regardless of their personal beliefs. We are glad that the CPC has turned the page and extended a symbolic hand of welcome to LGBT Canadians.