OTTAWA — A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Tories says now is the time to drop language opposing same-sex marriage from Conservative party policy.
The party's need to rebuild after the fall election provides an opportunity to get rid of a policy that's offensive and hurts the party's chances for growth, a group called LGBTories says and they are asking interim party leader Rona Ambrose for help.
"This policy is a significant obstacle to the acceptance of the Conservative message by voters who would otherwise be attracted to the party's stance on economic, security, and foreign policy issues,'' they wrote in a letter to her made public this week.
The group started about a year ago ahead of Toronto Pride, an event that saw — for the first time — some Conservatives show up for the parade, including current Ontario PC leader and former Tory MP Patrick Brown and Tory MP Kellie Leitch.
Conservative MP Kellie Leitch and Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown march in Toronto's Pride parade on June 28, 2015. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Leitch is among those considering a bid for the federal party leadership, a race likely to kick off in earnest at this spring's Conservative policy convention.
That's partially why LGBTories aim to send a delegation to that convention to get the policy off the books, group member Ed Lorenzen said in an interview.
"We're in a leadership contest where candidates are going to be jockeying for the leadership, so we have a window of opportunity here to influence the debate,'' he said.
The party's policy declaration, last reviewed in 2013, says that a free vote in Parliament, not the courts, should determine the definition of marriage and that the party supports legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"We have a window of opportunity here to influence the debate.''
It's been nearly a decade since Parliament last tackled the issue. In 2006, the Conservative minority government introduced a motion asking for a law to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.
The motion failed. In the years since, including the four years of Conservative majority government, no law was ever brought forward.
LGBT Conservatives in Ottawa
LGBT Conservatives have gained more prominence in recent years. Since 2011, conventions have celebrated gay Conservatives at an event known as the fabulous blue tent. In 2013, more than 600 people showed up, including Laureen Harper.
That same year, 18 Conservatives helped pass an Opposition bill through the Commons that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered Canadians, though the bill never passed the Senate, in part because of efforts by some Conservatives to stop it.
When in government, the Conservatives also took a vocal stand in support of gay rights internationally.
While the policy declaration isn't binding on party leadership, that doesn't make it any less problematic, Lorenzen said. While he understands there's a risk that bringing it up could create a schism with socially conservative elements of the party, the 56-year-old says the time has come, nonetheless.
"We have an opportunity to bring this issue up within the family, so to speak,'' he said.
"And we think because we are Tories and we are loyal party members that it will mean more coming from us than from critics.''
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