Sunday, November 15, 2009

Are Gay Politicians Cool Now? I Love This Story.

For all the debates and rallies; threats and promises; the anti-gay uproar from Harper and his gang, has done nothing to change who Canadians are or how we feel.

Being gay is fine and being a gay politician is no biggie. 75% of Canadians say they have absolutely no problem with it.

(The above photo is Liberal MP Scott Brison on his wedding day.)

However, it is shaping up to be an interesting mayoral race in Toronto. George Smitherman hopes to be the first gay mayor of Toronto, but he has a problem. Another potential candidate, Glen Murray; is hoping the same thing.

Coming up the middle is John Tory, former leader of the provincial conservative party. Mr. Tory is more progressive than most, however, and actually supports same-sex marriage. I find the whole thing very enlightening.

Welcome to the 21st century Mr. Harper.

Out of the closet and into the cabinet
John Lorinc
Globe and Mail
November 15, 2009

When Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman kissed his spouse, Christopher Peloso, before a bank of cameras this week, he announced his campaign with a public display of affection normally reserved for heterosexual candidates and their spouses.

The gesture may have appeared casual, but it signalled two things to Canadians: that same-sex marriage is becoming an acceptable part of the country's social and political geography and that being openly gay is no longer a liability for politicians. As David Rayside, a University of Toronto professor of political science and sexual diversity, notes, “Visibility counts.”

Mr. Smitherman will be getting a whole lot more visibility during the next year as he seeks to become the first gay mayor of Canada's largest city. And he may not be the only candidate reaching for that goal: He will probably be challenged by another openly gay politician, Glen Murray. The two-term former mayor of Winnipeg has not yet formally announced his candidacy, but he has acknowledged that he is considering joining the race.

Their opponent, in turn, will almost certainly be businessman and radio host John Tory, a socially progressive conservative who once lost a hard-fought provincial riding race to another openly gay candidate, Kathleen Wynne.

As a one-time health minister, Mr. Smitherman, 44, will certainly face far more questions about his role in the eHealth Ontario scandal than about his sexual orientation. That's as it should be. Few Torontonians – or Vancouverites or Montrealers – would be surprised to learn that lifestyle is no longer an issue in local politics. But are Canadians outside large urban centres – especially those in small towns or rural areas – prepared to elect openly gay politicians to top leadership roles, such as premier or prime minister?

Pollster Michael Adams, who tracks social values in Canada, says sexual orientation isn't an issue. “We're at the point where we're past it,” he says. “There are groups whose cultural differences are more controversial than being gay.”

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