We all can change and evolve, including Patrick Brown

In defence of the Ontario Conservative leader's shifting perspective on social issues, including LGBT rights

TORONTO, Ont. Dec. 27, 2016/Troy Media/ – The essay below arrived one recent morning. Apologies for the length of this quote about Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and the LGBT issue, but it’s worth reading.

It was written by Eric Lorenzen and posted on the website LGBTory, which calls itself the home of LGBT conservatives.

Patrick Brown has expended considerable political capital since becoming leader in trying to make the Progressive Conservative Party more ‘progressive.’ In particular, he has reached out to the LGBT community for advice. He has publicly supported same-sex marriage, marched in Toronto’s Pride parade and reversed his earlier opposition to the province’s new sex-ed curriculum. He has put the party’s support behind Bill 28, which gives same-sex couples equal parenting rights. Most importantly, he has insisted that the party focus on fiscal issues and demanded that PC MPPs not push a social conservative agenda. For his efforts, social conservative critics have accused him of abandoning them on these crucial issues.

“To the religious right, this is an unconscionable betrayal. Christian activists call him a ‘shape-shifting weasel’ who is purging the party of social conservatives while espousing ‘Liberal’ polices on same-sex marriage and sex education in public schools. …

“Now that he is the leader of the PC Party, Patrick Brown has come down unequivocally against social conservative policies, stating in no uncertain terms that he is ‘determined to lead an Ontario PC Party that is modern, inclusive, pragmatic, and that reflects the diversity and values of our province. To me, that means one that is fiscally conservative and socially progressive.’

“Patrick Brown’s position on social issues is far from being ‘Liberal-lite.’ It represents the best of conservative tradition: treating everyone as equals while protecting individual liberty from the encroaching power of the state. It doesn’t matter how he arrived at this position; it matters that he’s here. True conservatives should be standing behind him, not sniping at him from the undergrowth.

I’m impressed not so much by Brown’s near-daily repudiation of what he once believed – although that, too, is impressive and laudatory – but more by the effort the author above made to contextualize changing political beliefs. It’s a good essay and provides a glimpse into the man who would be premier, perhaps. He isn’t what his opponents have said about him – not anymore, at least. His LGBT views have dramatically changed.

I was always associated with gay rights. In high school in Calgary and afterwards, the majority of my punk-circle friends were gay, I went to gay bars, I wrote pro-gay editorials for school papers, and I even wore the pink triangle onstage with the Hot Nasties. My parents later confessed they wondered if I was gay (I wasn’t).

Despite all that, however, I would still occasionally use the word “fag” (often directed at my gay buddies, but not always). I wondered, back then, if gay couples should adopt. I didn’t march in any Pride parades (in Calgary in the 1970s, there wasn’t one to march in). I wasn’t a shining beacon of progressive values, in other words.

My views changed, evolved. I learned – from my gay and lesbian friends, from reading, from observing the world around me. The same thing happened with my ex-boss, former prime minister Jean Chretien, on abortion. Another boss, former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, was pretty socially conservative, too, at the start. He changed. We all changed.

I regret that Brown was ever against gay marriage. I regret that he had socially conservative views on issues like abortion.

My sense (and LGBTory’s sense, based on Lorenzen’s essay) is that Brown now profoundly regrets those things, too.

He deserves credit for that, not shaming.

Troy Media columnist Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator. Warren is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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