NEWS
05/23/2014 11:12 EDT | Updated 05/23/2014 11:59 EDT

Kathleen Wynne, Partner Talk About What Charter Means To Them As Gay Women

CP
Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne opened up Friday about how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has meant she can live

Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne opened up Friday about how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has meant she can live "without fear" with her partner, Jane Rounthwaite, and succeed in politics as a gay woman.

It was the first time in the campaign that Wynne, Canada's first openly gay premier, spoke publicly about her sexual orientation.

The Liberal leader met with a group of immigrants at Toronto's Costi Corvetti Educat‎ion Centre and discussed the rights they will enjoy in Canada, The Toronto Star reported.

Wynne told them she would not be the leader of a province if not for the Charter and spoke about how she felt when gay marriage was recognized later in her adult life.

"Jane and I can live without fear because of the values that we all share," she said.

Later, at a press conference, Wynne was asked by a reporter if there was a time when she felt she had to "live in the shadows."

Wynne said her partner Jane could answer that question better than she could.

"Can I just tell your story a little bit?" Wynne asked Rounthwaite, who was off-camera.

Wynne said Rounthwaite's experience was different than her own.

"Jane grew up knowing that she was different from the time she was very little," Wynne said.

"I didn't figure that out until I was 37 so I lived with all the privilege of being a heterosexual and being in heterosexual marriage."

Wynne was married to Toronto accountant Phil Cowperthwaite for 13 years. The couple had three children together before divorcing in 1991. Wynne and Rounthwaite married in 2005.

Wynne told reporters that Rounthwaite, her old friend from Queen's University, spent "many, many, many years" not talking about her social life or being open in her place of work. Wynne said her partner had to pretend to be someone other than who she is.

"That's a very common story among gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered kids," Wynne said.

"I want to believe, and I do believe, because of where we live in Canada, in Ontario, that we can have a society that allows everyone to be who they are. And so kids like Jane and kids who are growing up questioning who they are will have the support in all of our schools to be exactly who they are."

Wynne also addressed her sexuality while running for the leadership of the Ontario Liberals in 2013.

In a speech to delegates at the party's convention, Wynne said she wanted to "put something on the table."

"Is Ontario ready for a gay premier? You've heard that question," she said. "Let's say what that actually means. Can a gay woman win?"

Wynne told Ontario Grits that when she first ran in 2003, she was told the people of her Toronto riding weren't ready to elect a gay woman — but they did.

"I don't believe the people of Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, colour or sexual orientation," she said. "I don't believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts."

Ontario voters head to the polls on June 12.