Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why I could never vote for Diane Haskett

Regular readers know that while I'm opposed to gay marriage, I don't have any issue with civil unions or common-law relationships (same or opposite sex). I also support gays and lesbians being able to participate in every other aspect of life, including adoptions; and their right to lobby the government and to protest peacefully. It's in that regard that I recall how two mayors in Ontario handled the issue of Gay Pride Day during the 1990s.

Here in Hamilton, Robert Morrow, who ran the old city from 1982 to 2000 (he lost out on the bid to run the "megacity" that was formed the following year), said that he was not going to issue a proclamation in honour of the day, citing his religious beliefs. The local homosexual community took him to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. It turned out to be a total public relations disaster on the part of Bob, who apologized to the HRC for any offence he had created ... nevertheless, he ended up being fined $5000 plus court costs. In response, the local city council decided the only way they could be fair to everyone was either to give proclamations to everyone who asked for one, or none at all -- and they chose the latter.

Fair enough.

Now consider what happened in London. Dianne Haskett took the same stance for the same reasons; and got a similar drubbing at the HRC and a somewhat larger fine. The local mayor's election was happening around that time -- I think it was 1997. She ran a "campaign of silence," not taking any media interviews and not campaigning, period. She ended up winning quite handily; although I think that had a lot to do with her overall operation of the city and not a tide against the gay and lesbian community. The night she won, however, she broke her mutedness and launched a tirade against her so-called "persecutors."

Since then, she's spent a lot of time in the United States, working for the radical branch of the Republican Party. Now she's back and running as a Member of Parliament in the London North seat left vacant by Joe Fontana. And true to form, she's run another campaign of silence, giving her first intervew only yesterday and affirming that if she's elected, she will vote to reban gay marriage. That's her right, and I'm not going to take that away from her. But that's not the problem.

The problem is that Canadians expect their politicians to keep an open mind, to accept all viewpoints that are presented to him or her, and to frankly discuss those ideas without any sense of contempt for those who may disagree with him or her. Shutting the door on open debate and predetermining the outcome before a discussion even begins ranges from the silly to the outrageous. For my part, a classic media and political junkie, my views have evolved on the issue as well ... for a long time, I probably would have thought of nothing of locking up people with an "alternate lifestyle." But I have modified how I feel about it as time has gone on.

People have the right to be wrong. For what it's worth, I concede I could be wrong about my current stance on same-sex relationships and am willing to keep an open mind about it. I also respect those who admit they were wrong about something ... like Mayor Bob, as we Hamiltonians still call him even though he's been out of office a long time. I have way less for those who refuse to admit even they could be -- like Haskett. So if I was living in London, there's no way I would vote for her. Or any other Conservative for that matter. After all, Dianne might want to remember some of her would-be colleagues are gay or lesbian (in the closet or not) and the caucus meetings can get quite rowdy at times.

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