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Conservatives feel equal marriage not only issue

Harper to revoke gay right to marriage

Ottawa Centre Conservative candidate Keith Fountain has no problem reconciling an apparent difference of opinion between himself and his party on the equal marriage issue.

In an earlier interview with Capital Xtra in which candidates were asked for their positions on several gay issues, Fountain doubted his party would revisit equal marriage and would vote against any attempt to revoke the right for gays to marry. But he also told Capital Xtra he would not leave caucus if the party continued in that vain.

Days later, Conservative leader Stephen Harper pledged a free vote in Parliament with the hope of revoking the right for gay couples to marry if he is elected Prime Minister, preferring civil unions and avoiding changes to the traditional definition of marriage. He added, however, those married under the current law would not see their marriages annulled.

In a follow-up interview with Capital Xtra, Fountain focused on the democratic nature of his party which, unlike the Liberals or New Democrats, he said, would allow each MP to vote their conscience even if it runs contrary to the party line.

When asked how he can reconcile himself with a party that treats human rights as morality issues, Fountain said his party consists of a variety of opinions and noted three dozen Liberals voted against equal marriage before it finally became law.

While Harper’s pledge is bound to affect his party’s success in ridings where the gay vote is strong enough to change the election outcome, as it is in Ottawa Centre, Fountain believes there are many within the gay community who will be interested in his party’s other policies.

“There’s more to their lives, because they also want to have more choices in their lives in terms of how they spend their money. They pay taxes like everybody else. They want to get a government that’s effective. They want the air to be cleaner. So, the core of my message is, I want to talk to all those other issues that define who you are,” he told Capital Xtra.

Fountain stressed the importance of individual choice, adding he doesn’t want gays to “feel compelled to always vote on the left wing of the spectrum just because of the stance on marriage.” Fountain feels there are many fiscal conservatives within the gay community, “So, I believe that gays would prefer to pay five percent GST instead of seven percent, for example.”

Other key ridings with strong gay votes include Vancouver Centre and Toronto Centre. In both ridings the parties are running candidates supportive of gay issues but the Conservative candidates will face the added difficulties arising from Harper’s pledge.

While Harper promised he would not use the Charter’s notwithstanding clause, constitutional experts, including 134 law professors from across Canada who co-authored an open letter to Harper last January, challenging his legal stance, agree avoiding the clause would be impossible.