Conservative Canadian Pol: Sexuality is a ’Choice’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday May 16, 2011

The politician who has been selected to lead British Columbia's Conservative Party claims that GLBTs do not need specific protections under the law--and furthermore, says that being gay is a matter of "choice" on the part of the individual, media sources reported May 12.

John Cummins was in the midst of a tour of Vancouver Island when he dropped those bombshells in a radio interview with station CFAX, reported CBC News on May 12.

Cummins said that gays should not be granted specific legal protections under the nation's human rights law, the CBC News article said.

"In my view it was not necessary to add another category. People are fully protected under the human rights code," Cummins declared.

The comment did not take into account a spate of anti-gay violence in Canada in recent years. Hate crimes spiked by 35% in a one-year period, reported the Canadian Press on June 14, 2010. leaping up in number from 2007 to 2008. A little more than half of those crimes targeted victims because of their race; a quarter were motivated by the victim's religion; and around a sixth were driven by anti-gay animus.

But the number of anti-gay hate crimes shot up 100% between 2007 and 2008, and of anti-gay hate crimes, three-quarters involved violence rather than vandalism or other forms of criminal activity; in contrast, only 38% of the hate crimes motivated by race were violent in nature, and only a quarter of hate crimes targeting religious minorities involved violence.

Among anti-gay instances of hate crime in Canada in recent years:

  • In Windsor, two episodes of gay bashing took place within two weeks last year. In mid-May, Chris Rabideau was set upon by two men who beat and robbed him; the men shouted anti-gay epithets during the attack. On May 31, two men were assaulted by an individual who, together with two others, hurled anti-gay abuse at them in a pizza restaurant. Though only one of the abusers physically attacked the men, he left one victim with facial injuries severe enough to require reconstructive surgery, reported Xtra! on May 31, 2010.

  • In October of 2009, 27-year-old Christopher Skinner, an openly gay man, was beaten by a number of men who emerged from a black SUV. While Skinner lay on the ground, the men got back into the vehicle and deliberately drive over him. Skinner died later in the hospital. It was only hours later that Skinner's fiancé, Ryan Cook, learned of Skinner's murder.

  • A 62-year-old gay man was knocked down by a 35-year-old who declared that, "The faggot deserved it." The victim struck his head in the fall, suffering severe brain damage. That attack took place in Vancouver in March of 2009.

  • In September of 2009, an Ontario man was attacked by a mob of young men that viciously beat him with a brick. The victim suffered multiple facial contusions and fractures.

    A Canadian agency, Statistics Canada, noted that more reportage might be the reason for the spike, rather than more crime. However, a Queen's University sociology professor, Sarita Srivastava, noted that hate crimes are under-reported as a rule.

    The executive director of GLBT equality group EGALE, Helen Kennedy, similarly noted that, "close to 75 per cent of these crimes go unreported." Kennedy said that anti-gay violence occurs disproportionately in schools, with young GLBTs the targets of harassment and violent attack.

    "The violence is still there," said Kennedy. "The fact that we're reporting it more is good, but we still have to do a lot more."

    Those statistics seemingly escaped Cummins, who told listeners that he had opposed adding GLBT-specific protections to the law during his tenure as an Ottawa lawmaker.

    The wealth of medical and scientific evidence pointing to a physiological--and possibly genetic--underpinning for homosexuality also escaped the conservative leader.

    "I'm not a scientist," Cummins said, adding, "some of the research tells me that there's more of an indication that that's a choice issue."

    Cummins did not specify what research he had seen, but a growing body of evidence suggests that gays are born homosexual. Some factors appear to be a matter of how their genetic code expresses itself; other factors seem to involve hormone levels in utero.

    The scientific community largely believes that homosexuality is an innate characteristic and that sexual orientation cannot be chosen, though sexual desires can seemingly be repressed through an exercise of individual will. Individuals who have sought to be "cured" of homosexuality say that they "struggle" with sexual attraction to others of the same gender, but still work to maintain heterosexual relationships; others have said that they have quelled same-sex attraction only at the cost of suppressing all sexuality.

    In zoos and in the wild, more than 7,000 animal species, including penguins and fruit flies, have been observed to include individuals that express same-gender sexual attraction.

    Cummins did not seem eager to defend his stance through citation of fact. When subsequently asked about his radio remarks, the article said, Cummins defended his views by saying that they were a matter of opinion.

    "I'm pro-life, I'm pro-traditional marriage, that's my view, I'm not a scientist," Cummins told the press. "I'm not going to discuss that, they're personal issues, private issues."

    Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently won an election that put conservatives decidedly in power. Harper has said that he does not intend to attempt to undo GLBT equality, such as marriage rights, which same-sex Canadian families have enjoyed since 2005.

    Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.