A local pastor and friend of mine commented to me recently that it was good that homosexual people were coming out of the closet, because those closets would be needed very soon for Christians.
–Brian Pallister, House of Commons speech, 2005
On April 24, 2005, at 12:05 p.m., Brian Pallister proudly stood up from his seat in Parliament and made a passionate speech denouncing same-sex marriage. During that speech, he called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “discriminatory,” and criticized John Lennon for stating “All you need is love.” All of this is on the record, but what is his position on the rights of GLBT Manitobans today? Actually, he won’t say.
To describe his position on marriage equality, Brian Pallister this past year has used a word that politicians love to toss out when explaining why they changed their minds –“evolved.” In 2015, when confronted with the question of whether he now supports same-sex marriage, Pallister responded, “Times have changed. Positions have evolved.” He clearly refused to say that his position had evolved. Only that presumably
some positions had evolved. Even Christian broadcaster Michael Coren, who spent decades opposing gay marriage, has said he now supports marriage equality. In a recent article, he described the loving and passionate welcome he received at the MCCT, Toronto’s popular gay church, as the moment he realized his views were outdated. Conversely, our new premier has yet to say publically if he personally supports same-sex marriage.
One of the most offensive comments he made in that 2005 speech was when he labelled same-sex marriage “a social experiment.” When confronted with those comments earlier this year, he told the Canadian Press, “Comments about social experiment were made by gay and lesbian people as well.” As a gay activist in To- ronto in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I can tell you uncategorcically that statement is completely ridiculous. Back then, only right-wing politicians used the term “social experiment,” and it was that kind of ignorance that we were up against. Pallister has repeated this false claim more than once, but has never been challenged to name a single gay or lesbian person who used the term “social experiment.”
It may very well be that our new premier is actually a strong supporter of marriage equality, but has been unable to express that during the campaign for fear of upsetting his political base. In fairness, his communications office seemed genuinely open to an interview for this article, but unfortunately not by our deadline.
This year, Justin Trudeau announced that he will be the first sitting prime minister to march in a Pride parade. In Manitoba, Greg Selinger held the distinction of being the first sitting premier to march in one of our parades. I certainly hope he wasn’t the last.
–Cade Malone is a gay broadcaster and communications specialist who has previously interviewed Brian Pallister on two occasions while news director at 730 CKDM in Dauphin Manitoba