Alberta Conservatives back removal of same-sex ban from party policy

The province's federal Tories hope to change the policy at a spring convention

OTTAWA – Alberta Conservatives have joined the call to have a ban on same-sex marriage dropped from official party policy, adopting a resolution to that effect at their recent policy convention.

The move gives more weight to efforts by grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tories to have the party’s declaration on the issue changed at this spring’s Conservative convention, which will lay the groundwork for the party’s leadership vote in 2017.

The group LGBTory wrote to interim party leader Rona Ambrose last week asking for her help on the issue, saying the policy as it stands is offensive and risks alienating voters.

This past weekend, Alberta’s card-carrying Conservative party members met to agree on what party policy changes and additions they’d like to see adopted this spring when the entire party meets in Vancouver for a policy convention.

Two electoral district associations, one in Edmonton and the other in Fort McMurray, proposed an update to the same-sex marriage policy.

The policy currently says Parliament, not the courts, should determine the definition of marriage and that the party supports legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In their resolution, the Fort McMurray-Cold Lake association said the first point is moot as there was a free vote in 2006 on a motion calling for such legislation and it failed.

They also said that if the party is committed to free votes on matters of conscience — of which same-sex marriage is one — it makes no sense to have a policy that takes a specific stand on the issue.

“Individual members of Parliament should be empowered to vote with their conscience in consultation with their constituents without having them biased one way or the other by their party policy declaration,” the association said.

The resolution called for the two lines that deal with same-sex marriage to be deleted from the section on social policy.

Alberta MP Michelle Rempel said she was glad to see the motion get broad support.

“It’s a very positive thing and something that’s been very positively accepted,” she said.

While the motion is a first step in getting the language dropped, there’s no guarantee it will be part of the suite of policy options Conservatives will consider this spring in Vancouver.

It’s up to the party’s national executive to determine what motions will be debated at the meeting, a process that often takes into account how many members support a particular position.

Rempel said she thinks there’s a good chance the issue will be raised in Vancouver.

“There is a quite a bit of interest in this particular resolution and I’d anticipate other riding associations across the country will try to submit similar resolutions or support one single one going to the floor,” she said.

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