Is being gay a political non-issue now?

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Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby batty » Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:29 pm

Out of the closet and into the cabinet
Is being gay a political non-issue now?
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/gay-politicians-come-out-of-the-closet-and-into-the-cabinet/article1362948/
John Lorinc
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 9:00PM EST

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?

George Smitherman, left, and his partner Christopher Peloso, right, leave Queens's Park after Smitherman confirmed that he will resign as Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure to offically run for mayor of Toronto on Nov. 9, 2009 in Toronto.
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.”

A 2007 Environics survey found that 75 per cent of Canadians agree or strongly agree that gays and lesbians should be permitted to run for public office, the highest approval level of all countries in the Western Hemisphere. (In the Caribbean and Central America, up to 89 per cent of those polled felt that gay candidates should not be allowed to stand for election.) Still, Prof. Rayside says there is little Canadian public opinion research on how voters perceive gay politicians. He estimates that fewer than one in 10 Canadians would change his or her vote because of a candidate's sexual orientation, and he points out that the attitudes of rural Canadians tend to be more accepting than many urbanites assume. But he notes that “there would still be an element of discomfort that could be a factor in a close race.”

How much? Last year's election of Barack Obama initially looked like a new chapter in American race relations, but the outpouring of hatred toward the first African-American President over the past summer suggests that old prejudices can and do linger just beneath the surface.

There have long been – and still are – gay politicians who have not come out of the proverbial closet to their constituents for fear of losing future elections.

“ We're at the point where we're past it. There are groups whose cultural differences are more controversial than being gay. ”
— Pollster Michael Adams
The first wave of openly gay politicians – crusaders such as former Burnaby MP Svend Robinson and long-time Edmonton city councillor Michael Phair – focused their energies on equity-focused issues such as affordable housing, police conduct and employment-equity law.

In recent years, they have been succeeded by a younger generation for whom sexual orientation is incidental to a range of other political objectives. As Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison has put it, he is not a gay politician but rather a politician who happens to be gay.

Mr. Murray, Canada's first gay mayor, was elected in a heavily suburban city and devoted much of his time in office to reforming Winnipeg's tax base and addressing environmental issues. When he first ran, he encountered resistance from Winnipeg's Muslim community. But he persisted in forging ties. “After a couple of terms, it's the community I'm closest to,” he says.

Tibor Kolley/The Globe and MailFormer mayor of Winnipeg, Glen Murray, talks a stroll through Kensington Market in Toronto in 2004.
Mr. Smitherman's political career dates to a 1995 controversy over same-sex benefits, and he was later elected in a riding with a large gay population. In opposition, he cultivated a scrappy persona and led the Liberal attack against the ruling Conservatives.

Once in office, he took on difficult portfolios (Health and Energy) rather than gravitating to equity-related legislative issues, although he was very public about his 2007 marriage to Mr. Peloso.

Could he have become Canada's first openly gay premier, enjoying a public profile that others – such the late New Brunswick premier Richard Hatfield, who remained in the closet during his long political career – never attained?

Mr. Adams thinks so. “If George hung around, he could have run for [Dalton] McGuinty's job and he could have won.”

Still, there are subtle but significant differences between serving as an openly gay MP, MPP or city councillor, and holding a prominent political leadership role.

Though most people take them for granted, the habits of high public office are steeped in the symbols of heterosexual marriage. At official functions, the prime minister or premiers are often seen with their spouses (typically wives), and greet visiting leaders with their other halves in tow. “I do think that's a barrier,” Prof. Rayside says.

While the Canadian media remain discreet about the personal lives of politicians, there's no doubt that some spouses, such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen, do command the public's attention; information or images about the lives of leaders' families regularly find their way into the news.

With same-sex marriage now commonplace, some gay politicians – such as Mr. Brison, who has run and lost in two national leadership contests – have allowed their marriage ceremonies to become quasi-public events, thus giving voters a glimpse of customs that turn out to be familiar to most.

Yet, in so doing, they may also face even greater expectations to maintain long-term monogamous relationships than do their straight colleagues. When single politicians such as former prime minister Pierre Trudeau or Conservative defence minister Peter MacKay are known to be dating a succession of women, the public generally enjoys the titillation. But even today, high-profile gay politicians would probably be judged much more harshly if they took a similar approach to their romantic life.

For Mr. Murray, such superficial issues are ultimately beside the point. As he says, “You stand up and get judged on the content of your character.”


Quite an interesting article on gays and politics, but my favourite quote is in the second last paragraph:

they may also face even greater expectations to maintain long-term monogamous relationships than do their straight colleagues. When single politicians such as former prime minister Pierre Trudeau or Conservative defence minister Peter MacKay are known to be dating a succession of women, the public generally enjoys the titillation. But even today, high-profile gay politicians would probably be judged much more harshly if they took a similar approach to their romantic life.
.

This is an issue that I think transcends the realm of politicians and applies to the average Joe as well. Gays are being held to a higher standard in exchange for wider social acceptance. Is this a fair deal?
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby butch » Sun Nov 15, 2009 5:11 pm

IMO... I think that, in urban centres of Canada, being openly gay may be a benefit to a politician.
Being a gay politician in somewhere like Kelowna might get you lynched.

So many of us have reached the stage of thinking that ALL politicians are nothing more than the most dishonest of scumbag liars and cheats, that a display of honesty is a welcome change.

When I look at someone like Jack Layton, a previously popular Toronto politician, I ask myself, "does anyone believe even a single word that comes out of this idiots mouth?" That man really creeps me out and I've always thought he was a closet case and the most dishonest of the dishonest, the cheatingest of the cheaters.

But, I don't trust anyone with a moustache who isn't in full leathers.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby nimby » Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:20 pm

batty wrote:Quite an interesting article on gays and politics, but my favourite quote is in the second last paragraph:

they may also face even greater expectations to maintain long-term monogamous relationships than do their straight colleagues. When single politicians such as former prime minister Pierre Trudeau or Conservative defence minister Peter MacKay are known to be dating a succession of women, the public generally enjoys the titillation. But even today, high-profile gay politicians would probably be judged much more harshly if they took a similar approach to their romantic life.
.

This is an issue that I think transcends the realm of politicians and applies to the average Joe as well. Gays are being held to a higher standard in exchange for wider social acceptance. Is this a fair deal?


I think that any member of a minority who is elevated in the public eye will initially be held to a higher standard of accountability. Is it fair? Who ever said life was fair. Yup. It's great oppourtunity for those to showcase their abilities on a grand scale and blow old stereotypes right out of the water. Personally I'd love to see a gay playboy politician running, much more entertaining to watch. I'm just proud that in Canada sexuality is becomming less and less of an issue for everyone.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby Earl Butz » Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:45 am

I'd say no. Just take a gander at the 10 premiers of Canada. 10 white, heterosexual men. Well there was Richard Hatfield, but he was a sad closet case. I think B.C. had an east Indian in charge for about 5 minutes. And a woman for another 5. Alberta might have a woman premier some day, but that's wishful thinking.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby furface » Tue Nov 17, 2009 11:00 pm

Perhaps in Canada; but here in the land of the Religious Reich things are very different.

The leading candidate for Mayor of Houston is an open lesbian (she's currently the city comptroller). The fundies and other wingnuts have already begun to play the Gay Agenda card and talk of having to stop the gay takeover of city hall.

Near as I can tell she's about the same politically as the opponents and very well qualified to be mayor of our 4th largest city.

Perhaps with time and education, not to mention actual contact with the sexually atypical, it won't matter. One can but hope.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby Earl Butz » Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:12 am

Yeah that occurred to me right after I made my last post. You're actually ahead of us when it comes to women. Hillary, Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi, the former former governor of New Jersey, Ann Richards, etc. We've had women in a few important positions, but overall we're behind. Our woman prime minister was only in power for two months.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby nimby » Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:47 pm

But she was in power. See the list below.

http://canadaonline.about.com/cs/womeng ... twomen.htm

We've had many women make significant contributions to Canadian politics. Not to mention Governor Generals.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby butch » Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:06 pm

When I was working in photography, we photographed Kim Campbell sitting on top of a baby elephant for Saturday Night magazine. First time I've ever worked with elephants (they really stink).

Kim was a little nervous... mother elephant was tethered with a huge chain about 20 feet away. Mother was HUGE and we weren't certain the chain was big enough if she became upset. But the flash equipment didn't seem to bother her and baby elephant was lots of fun.

I think it's still a boy's club in Ottawa and we are a long way from having a woman Prime Minister. I'm thinking Kim Campbell was a sacrificial lamb and everyone knew she wouldn't last.

P.S. she seemed like quite a nice lady and was fun to work with, even if she was quite nervous about the elephants.
Our Governor General (Michaelle Jean) is kinda cool. I think everyone likes her... and she has more power than we thought she had. If it weren't for her proroguing parliament, maybe Stephen Harper would now be a has-been.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby nimby » Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:37 pm

butch wrote:Our Governor General (Michaelle Jean) is kinda cool. I think everyone likes her... and she has more power than we thought she had. If it weren't for her proroguing parliament, maybe Stephen Harper would now be a has-been.

Don't forget, The Governor General acts on behalf of the Crown. The Queen still is our official head of state.

God Save The Queens!!! :wink:
Last edited by nimby on Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby nimby » Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:52 am

Read another interesting article about George Smitherman. What I really like is how his gayness does seem to be a non-issue in the press. It was only inferred to as his husband and him are planning to start a family. Kinda cool me thinks. :D


"The usually bold George Smitherman stepped gingerly into Toronto city politics yesterday with a suggestion he'd focus more on controlling spending than hiking taxes.

Smitherman, who officially announced yesterday he was resigning his cabinet position to run for mayor next year, said it's "bad news" for Toronto taxpayers when politicians focus on revenue generation to balance the books.

He appeared to rule out a Toronto sales tax, as suggested by one city councillor.

Although short on policy details, Smitherman talked broadly about the kind of mayor he'd be -- one who's able to straddle the left, centre and right wings of city council to bring an end to the arguments and divisiveness that have marked that level of government.

"My city calls out, my city shows that it has a need to restore a sense of power to the office," said Smitherman, who was raised in Etobicoke.

The current mayor, David Miller, said yesterday the future mayor must work toward "the sustainability" of the city.

"Mr. Smitherman will be like every other candidate -- he'll have to explain his prerogatives and his vision," Miller told reporters after the opening of a two-day conference of the International Forum of the Americas at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Smitherman will remain as the MPP for Toronto Centre until next February.

He and his husband, Christopher, who are planning to adopt a child, will be giving up his $165,000 salary for seven to eight months.

However, Smitherman is eligible for a severance of roughly $245,000 when he quits provincial politics.

Premier Dalton McGuinty, who stunned most political observers back in 2003 when he chose the star of his rat pack to serve as his first minister of health, said yesterday he's going to miss the drive Smitherman brought to the job.

"He's a take-no-prisoners kind of a guy," McGuinty said. "And there are some who have been less than enthusiastic about his modus operandi but I look at it from an Ontario perspective."

Smitherman's legacy at Queen's Park is lower health-care waiting times, more doctors for Ontarians and a Green Energy Act, he said.

Tory MPP Peter Shurman said Smitherman also has left behind a $1-billion boondoggle at eHealth Ontario, the spending scandal that occurred partly under his watch.

"You can't go and be mayor of Toronto without answering for your previous sins," Shurman said.

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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby Bramasole_iowa » Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:15 am

Take a look at the comments of critics of Sam Adams, mayor of Portland, and you'll see that being gay is still an issue for politicians.
As for us non-politicians, yes being gay is still a political issue. Look at California and Prop 8 last year. Look at Maine with Prop 1 this year. Look at New Hampshire's marriage equality repeal efforts. Look at Iowa in the next few election cycles.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby nimby » Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:28 am

The contrasts between The United States and Canada still amaze me.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby furface » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:17 pm

Michael; the thought occurs to me that Canada, as a nation, has passed through adolescence while the good ole US of A is still trying to get past the feelings of testosterone fueled superiority and self righteousness. Maybe we'll grow up and become an adult nation and not just a self important bully whose citizens are out for themselves alone. ...provide for the general welfare... and ...the common good... have become very empty phrases. We really need to ponder on those concepts and grow up.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby Rico » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:53 pm

furface wrote:Michael; the thought occurs to me that Canada, as a nation, has passed through adolescence while the good ole US of A is still trying to get past the feelings of testosterone fueled superiority and self righteousness. Maybe we'll grow up and become an adult nation and not just a self important bully whose citizens are out for themselves alone. ...provide for the general welfare... and ...the common good... have become very empty phrases. We really need to ponder on those concepts and grow up.

I agree with you and I would further elaborate on my agreement but it seems I stay out of trouble on this board if I don't venture too far from entertainment, food, or hunks. Lessons learned the hard way. But I just want to congratulate you on your post and your observations about us en los Estados Unidos...bien dicho! or as the rest of us say...WELL SAID!
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby nimby » Sun Nov 29, 2009 6:15 pm

I know I'm rather naieve on international politics, but growing up I was always taught that the US was the bastion of human rights amongst developed nations, and that Canada always followed their lead. As I grew I learned that this was not always the case. Now as an adult, I'm truly amazed at the differences. It's like we're, well, a whole different country :lol: .
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby butch » Mon Nov 30, 2009 6:49 am

It was nice to hear that the Prime Minister was dumping on Uganda this past week about their gay rights policy (they want to sentence anyone caught in a gay act to life imprisonment). Mostly, I think, Canadians only really discriminate against the poor... "let them eat cake".

I was surprised to hear that Switzerland gave a thumbs down to the Minarets... but then again, it's a very Christian country.
Like that's going to change anything except make the Muslims angry. Let's face it, the Swiss have lost it and moved backwards in time.
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby Earl Butz » Mon Nov 30, 2009 7:56 am

Uganda wants to execute anybody with AIDS....a truly enlightened country. :roll:

The U.S. is much more of a wealth farm than Canada. You can make a fortune in the U.S., but very few accomplish that in Canada. Alot of Canadians who want big bucks just give up and leave for you know where. The ones who do stay here are an unproductive lot. I guess it's the weather. Cold and snow just make you want to stay in bed all day and sleep. :lol:
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Re: Is being gay a political non-issue now?

Postby UnRepublicanstraightactor » Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:53 am

The answer is, yes, it absolutely is a non-issue, and it has been in nearly all parts of the country for a couple years now.

Supporting marriage equality on the other hand, is not yet a non-issue, and considered by most Americans, a totally separate issue. That will take a few more years. We'll get there soon enough, though...
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