(The National Post,
July 4, 2000)
by Martin Masse and Gilles Guénette
Isn't it a bit surrealistic that one of the main criteria being used to
decide who should be the next leader of the Opposition is the man's ideas
about homosexuality and his acceptance by the gay crowd? You would think
Toronto's recent Gay Pride parade was in fact a huge demonstration to try
to influence the vote one way or another.
For example, André Turcotte, the Canadian Alliance pollster and a Preston Manning supporter, is warning that efforts to broaden the party's base will be ruined if its members end up choosing Stockwell Day as their leader this week because of Mr. Day's attitudes on issues such as gay rights.
The reality is that this gay thing is a complete non-issue. Virtually all those who have mentioned it are heterosexual opponents of Mr. Day, within or outside the party, and they have used it as the new politically correct shortcut to painting someone as irredeemably "extremist" and thus unfit to run for office in nice, tolerant Canada. The only gay input into the CA leadership campaign so far has come from a Montreal fashion critic, who commented favourably on the candidate's clothes, and the Web master of a gay-oriented site, who organized a poll on the sexy appearance of Mr. Day -- with predictable results. Not exactly clear signs of rising queer outrage.
As members of this officially oppressed minority, we feel it is our duty to set the record straight and tell heterosexual do-gooders that no, they don't need to protect us from this man, and that they should focus on more important issues such as fiscal policy and federal-provincial relations for the remainder of the leadership campaign.
The only tangible evidence of Mr. Day's "intolerance" is that, as a member of the Alberta government, he supported exempting homosexuals from protection under Alberta's human rights code. Big deal! The case for opposing this policy -- and all other attempts at giving special protection to some individuals on the basis of "collective" characteristics -- is not based on intolerance and bigotry, but has a perfectly sound libertarian foundation. Canadians should all have the same rights. This has always been official Reform and Canadian Alliance policy.
The trend to give special rights against discrimination to all sorts of groups and officially oppressed minorities is threatening our basic freedoms. When you cannot rent your apartment to whomever you want, hire whomever you want and assemble in a voluntary association with whomever you want, you have lost your freedom of opinion and freedom of association. Your rights to do what you want with your own property and to contract freely have become meaningless.
It should be perfectly acceptable if a private religious institution wants to hire only staff who conform to the values being taught there. The reverse should of course be true: Secular parents who don't want their kids to hear about what they consider religious nonsense and who don't object to the use of books that portray homosexuality in a positive light should be able to have that choice, which may imply discrimination against religious fundamentalist teachers. The problem exists only because the state is involved in the business of education and wants to impose one curriculum and one official ideology on everybody. Privatize the schools, let parents choose what kind of education they want their kids to receive, and the problem will be gone.
Should "gay marriage" be recognized by law? Why does it have to? Churches can decide if it is theologically appropriate for them to bless these unions, but the state doesn't need to know if the nature of a contract is based on a "gay" relationship or not. What the law has to do is uphold the contract, not decide if it is morally acceptable. The problem exists only because governments insist on regulating marriage in innumerable ways instead of treating it as a private matter between two consenting individuals.
On these issues and others, the gay lobby has in fact become the side supporting official intolerance. And religious traditionalists are right to protest that they are being forced to subsidize and promote something they find repugnant. They should be allowed to believe what they want about gays and act accordingly on their property and in their private institutions.
What they should not be allowed to do, however, is to force their beliefs on everybody else, and on gays themselves. From the perspective of a successful right-wing political coalition -- and that of a coherent support for individual liberty -- the solution is not to reverse the trend and have the state impose traditional values again. The solution is simple: Get the state out of the way and let each live according to his or her values and associate and contract with whomever he or she pleases. This will protect not only gays and lesbians from discrimination, but also religious conservatives who have seen their way of life attacked for decades by interventionist governments promoting secular values. Throughout history, minorities -- sexual, religious, racial or others -- have been persecuted, discriminated against and massacred by states, not by individuals. Today, homosexuality is broadly accepted not because the state is protecting us, but because people's perceptions have changed. Although we happen to be gay, we would much prefer to have fewer "rights" in Canadian law as members of a protected group defined by its sexuality, and more as simple individuals. Like the right to keep more than 50% of our income in our pockets for example.
The perceived division within the CA is totally overblown. After the first incident when an anti-abortion group denounced members of the Tom Long campaign for being openly gay or "pro-gay," Stockwell Day said: "I believe in limited government and what people do in their private lives is their private business." Later, his campaign manager, Jason Kenney, said Mr. Day's campaign includes "everybody from socially conservative Muslims, Jews and Christians to gay libertarians and Quebec nationalists." They mean it.
Martin Masse is a former Reform organizer and candidate in Quebec and publisher of the libertarian e-zine Le Québécois Libre. Gilles Guénette is Web master for the Stockwell Day campaign's French Web site.