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NDP politician Cheri DiNovo may be leaving politics, but her work on LGBT issues isn’t over

DiNovo’s legacy on LGBT rights in Ontario includes banning conversion therapy, equal parenting laws, and a trans-rights bill

Cheri DiNovo at the rainbow flag raising at Toronto’s Queen’s Park on June 19, 2017. Credit: Nick Lachance/Xtra

Cheri DiNovo, the NDP MPP and longtime LGBT rights advocate, has officially announced her retirement from elected politics.

Though it’s been public knowledge for months that she wouldn’t run in the next election, DiNovo made an official public announcement at Queen’s Park on Sept 20, 2017.

DiNovo, an ordained United Church minister, will take over the Trinity-St Paul Centre for Faith, Arts and Justice in downtown Toronto, starting Jan 1, 2018.

First elected to the Ontario legislature for Parkdale-High Park in 2006, DiNovo has been a prolific legislator despite sitting in the opposition benches. She’s had more private member’s bills become law than any other provincial politician in Ontario history.

She was also the first-ever critic on LGBT issues at Queen’s Park, a role she leveraged to shepherd a number of LGBT-rights bills through to law.

“It has been 11 years of passion and productivity,” she said at her announcement. “I would not have been successful without the assistance of members of all of our political parties.”

DiNovo leaves a robust legacy on LGBT rights that includes adding gender identity and expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code, banning conversion therapy and pushing the Ontario government to adopt equal parenting laws for queer and trans families.

An openly bisexual woman, DiNovo has been a visible LGBT activist since the early 1970s, when she was one of the only women to sign the “We Demand” manifesto, which pressed the federal government to fully legalize homosexuality.

In 2001, DiNovo performed arguably the first legal same-sex marriage in North America, when the marriage of Paulo Barrero and Blanca Mejias, two women, was accepted by the marriage registry in Thunder Bay. The union was later officially recognized when the Ontario courts ruled in favour of equal marriage two years later.

Last week, DiNovo’s executive assistant Bhutila Karpoche received the NDP nomination to try and replace DiNovo in Parkdale-High Park.

Premier Kathleen Wynne applauded DiNovo for her work during question period after DiNovo attacked the government for insufficient progress on trans health care.

“She has always been a champion,” Wynne said about DiNovo’s commitment to LGBT issues.

DiNovo has also been a progressive agitator within the NDP. After the disappointing showing for the federal NDP last election, she was one of the most high-profile critics of then–NDP leader Tom Mulcair, and was even planning on running for the federal leadership until she suffered two small strokes and pulled out of the race.

DiNovo noted that Queen’s Park will be in her parish when she takes over Trinity-St. Paul’s next January — and she is committed to continuing her work on LGBT issues.

“I intend to continue fighting for those who are marginalized, but also providing pastoral care for those who are in need in the political sphere,” she said.

“God gifted me with a voice. I will continue to use it.”