Monday, January 21, 2008

Tory Don Meredith has much to learn about LGBT voters

Based on his comments in this Xtra interview, Toronto Centre Tory candidate Don Meredith has much to learn about one of the most important communities in the riding he seeks to represent in Ottawa after March 17.

Voters in Toronto Centre head to the polls in one of four byelections to be held that day across the country.

Meredith was appointed by Tory party central to replace Mark Warner, the party's original candidate in the riding, who claims he was ousted in part because he was too supportive of queer issues.

Meredith now faces an uphill battle against Liberal candidate Bob Rae and queer immigration lawyer El-Farouk Khaki for the NDP (plus Green Party candidate Chris Tindal.)

According to the Xtra interview, Meredith admits he has a "moderate level of understanding" of queer issues. Despite the fact he's a Pentecostal minister, he says he supports keeping same sex marriage because it's now the law.

"I will champion those rights for those individuals of that orientation. I have no issue with what the law says."

As for the possibility of Stephen Harper sneaking in a revisiting of the issue after the next election, should the Tories win a majority, Meredith's reply is a relief.

"It's been debated and deliberated. I truly believe that this thing would not be brought back. And if it is, it is the law and we would vote according to what the law is."

So Meredith appears to be more open-minded than his bio would have us believe.

Yet this quote is cause for concern:

"It's the right of individuals to choose their orientation. Individuals have chosen. In terms of my sexual orientation I support the gay and lesbian community in what they have in terms of supporting the choices that they have made."

If he has any gay Tories working his campaign, perhaps they'll find the time to educate him that being gay is certainly not a choice, as we know.

Meredith's "individuals have chosen," comment reminds me of the ex-gay therapy movement, which claims the ability to "cure" gays and lesbians who choose to be straight. Of course, we know such therapies are fraudulent and never "cure" individuals of their inborn orientation.

Of course, I'm not suggesting Meredith supports homosexuals being "cured." It just seems highly likely his knowledge of LGBT issues has only started with this by-election campaign. He seems open to listening. He's running in the riding after all.

When asked if he believes homosexuality is a sin, he replies, "I am not God and I will not play God. My Bible tells me, "Judge not lest ye be judged.""

Overall, Meredith's comments don't scare me too much. I'm sure the by-election campaign will provide him with ample opportunity to learn more. It seems heavy-handed to be too critical of him, especially since we know he faces a huge uphill battle winning this vote against Bob Rae. I suspect voters will agree on March 17 that Rae is by far the best candidate in this race.

I'd love to be able to vote for Rae, but I will be moving out of the Toronto Centre riding on Feb 1. Yet somehow I think Rae won't be needing my one little vote to get over the top.


CT said...

You've been generous here Matt. What I found most perplexing about Meredith's interview was his confusing of gender identity with sexual orientation, and his strange dodging answer on whether or not he supports harmonizing the ages of consent for anal sex and vaginal sex.

Of course, I think you're also generous to not mention the numbers "167," so at least you're displaying equal opportunity generosity. ;-)

Hopefully you're right that Meredith will learn a thing or two over the course of the campaign.

Chris Tindal
Green Party Candidate
Toronto Centre

Matt Guerin said...

Chris, Don Meredith strikes me as a nice guy a bit in over his head. If he had a solid chance of actually winning, I'd be far less generous for sure. I actually support raising age of consent to 16 from 14 and at the same time I'm not sure about lowering age of consent for anal sex to 16 from 18. The optics of such a change aren't great. Although I do think there is a lot of paternalism in the Conservative position on this - like we know what's best for teenagers and we should be making decisions for them, or that the government should be making value judgments about what kinds of sex are acceptable for 16-year-olds versus 18-year-olds. It's a tricky issue.

As for Bob Rae's history with Bill 167 in 1994, that does seem a bit like ancient history since we now have same sex marriage. I'm sure Rae will lose some votes over that. Many progressives were disappointed with his NDP government and its handling of various issues, including this one. Yet he seems to have learned from his past mistakes and has turned the page. I'm willing to as well.