I've often been told that libertarians and social conservatives have to come together and overlook their differences in order not to fracture the conservative movement and to provide an electable alternative to the Liberals. I generally agree with that strategy and try to look at the big conservative picture, but unless big-C Conservatives repudiate Gwen Landolt and REAL Women, we're inviting criticism which we probably deserve.
Ms Landolt, writing in the capacity of national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, recently posted an editorial on the organization's website criticizing Foreign Minister John Baird for "furthering his own perspective on homosexuality" while publicly condemning the governments of Russia and Uganda for punitive anti-homosexual policies. She writes:
Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, has abused his position as a cabinet minister to impose his own special interests in the foreign countries of Uganda, Kenya and Russia.
He awarded $200,000 of Canadian taxpayers’ money by way of the Department of Foreign Affairs to special interest groups in Uganda and Kenya to further his own perspective on homosexuality. He also insulted the speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, at a meeting of the International Parliamentary Union in Quebec City when he criticized Uganda for its position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In response, Ms. Kadaga stated that Uganda was a sovereign nation and not a colony of Canada, and no one could tell Ugandans what to do.
Last week, Baird admitted working extensively behind the scenes to prevent Russia from passing legislation designated to protect Russian minors from homosexual propaganda. Baird blasted these laws as hateful, anti-gay and intolerant.Ms Landolt's problem with Baird's position is that it is a betrayal of "conservative values":
This is the strange, intolerant world Mr. Baird wishes to impose on sovereign countries, despite their own cultures and religion which find this unreasonable and unacceptable.
Gwendolyn Landolt, National Vice-President, stated, “Just who does John Baird think he is, using taxpayers’ money to promote his own personal agenda and endeavouring to set standards of the laws of foreign countries? He argues that homosexual rights are a ‘Canadian value’, but this applies only to himself and his fellow activists and the left-wing elitists. These are not conservative values and that of grass roots Canadians, who after all, pay the bulk of the taxes”.
Mr. Baird’s actions are highly offensive to conservative taxpayers. He cannot and must not undermine other countries’ sovereignty and dignity, rooted in stable family structures and religious faith, in order to impose his own value system on them.
Mr. Baird’s actions are destructive to the conservative base in Canada and causing collateral damage to his party.Let's focus on the two countries that Ms Landolt thinks should be left alone to enjoy their own cultures. In the case of Uganda, government ministers have made several attempts to pass draconian anti-gay laws which, among other things, prescribe the death penalty for the crime of "aggravated homosexuality". It doesn't, as Ms Landolt seems to suggest, simply protect the rights of religious people to express their disapproval of the "homosexual lifestyle" or of gay marriage, reducing the whole situation to an issue of free speech. If this were simply the case, I might actually agree with her. In fact the proposed law provides lengthy prison sentences and even death for being gay. Blogger Jim Burroway summarizes the bill's contents:
The current bill reiterates a lifetime imprisonment on conviction of homosexuality, and defines a new category called “aggravated homosexuality” with provisions for the death penalty upon conviction. Among the factors which can lead to “aggravated homosexuality” is if one partner is HIV-positive. This bill would mandate HIV testing to determine eligibility for “aggravated homosexuality.”
Also like the earlier draft, the bill includes a complete ban on all LGBT activities — including blogging — which could be construed as “promoting homosexuality.” This infringement on free speech, peaceful assembly, and redress of grievances marks the elimination of fundamental human rights for LGBT Ugandans. The bill also bans all organizations which advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens and holds their leadership criminally liable with fines and imprisonment for up to seven years.
The bill also retains provisions which require that if someone knows that someone is engaging in homosexuality, that person is to report them to the police within twenty-four hours or face fines and/or up to a three year prison sentence themselves. The bill also extends jurisdiction to acts committed outside Uganda by Ugandan citizens. In other words, if a Ugandan citizen is known to be in a gay relationship outside the country, he will risk lifetime imprisonment (or death, if he’s HIV-positive) upon his return. The bill also provides for the extradition of citizens from abroad.
The bill also voids all treaties and international obligations which violate ” the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act.”
The new bill adds some additional provisions over the previous draft. This bill adds the category of “attempted homosexuality” and provides a penalty of seven years in prison. For “attempted aggravated homosexuality,” the penalty is lifetime imprisonment. It also provides for compensation for “victims” of homosexuality, a provision in law which is sure to result in consensual partners turning against their partner to not only avoid the draconian legal penalties, but to claim the status of victim and seek compensation.
Further, the bill now adds an explicit ban on same-sex marriage. Anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage, either in Uganda or abroad, will liable for a lifetime imprisonment. New charges of “aiding and abetting homosexuality” and “conspiracy to engage in homosexuality” would carry a prison sentence of seven years. There is also a new charge for operating a brothel, with a definition so broad as to include any hotel owner. That, too, carries a prison sentence of seven years.Is this really the policy that REAL Women of Canada wants to get behind? This is what Gwen Landolt is exercised about, worried that John Baird insulted the speaker of Uganda's parliament by speaking out against it and having the effrontery to undermine Uganda's "sovereignty and dignity"? I find her position repugnant.
As for Russia, the issue is a law banning "gay propaganda" recently passed by the federal parliament. The law makes it illegal to "distribute information to minors" promoting homosexuality:
The cornerstone of Mr. Putin’s “War on Gays,” however, is the vaguely defined and definitively antigay Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, which allows the government to fine individuals accused of the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors. The federal ban “builds on the success” of regional laws on “propaganda of homosexualism to minors,” passed in 10 regions since 2006. We have yet to see an example of the federal law in action, though we came pretty close when four Dutch citizens were briefly detained in the northern city of Murmansk in July. Regional laws were used several times to fine gay rights activists.
Here is what Article 6.21 actually says:
Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.
If you’re Russian. Individuals engaging in such propaganda can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (120-150 USD), public officials are subject to fines of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles (1,200-1,500 USD), and registered organizations can be either fined (800,000-1,000,000 rubles or 24,000-30,000 USD) or sanctioned to stop operations for 90 days. If you engage in the said propaganda in the media or on the internet, the sliding scale of fines shifts: for individuals, 50,000 to 100,000 rubles; for public officials, 100,000 to 200,000 rubles, and for organizations, from one million rubles or a 90-day suspension.
If you’re an alien. Foreign citizens or stateless persons engaging in propaganda are subject to a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, or they can be deported from the Russian Federation and/or serve 15 days in jail. If a foreigner uses the media or the internet to engage in propaganda, the fines increase to 50,000-100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention with subsequent deportation from Russia.In her editorial Ms Landolt seems to suggest that the Russian law is necessary to protect minors from pedophiles, and who could argue with that? I don't think any sane person would have a problem with a law prohibiting the serious crime of pedophilia - Canada has such laws after all. However, as critics have pointed out, Russia's new law would make it illegal for gay couples to publicly display affection or to show a rainbow pin or flag in public. The law has already been used to arrest Russian gay rights advocates for protesting or attempting to organize parades, and to arrest and deport "pro-gay" foreigners for attempting to film documentaries about or give lectures on gay rights in Russia. For Ms Landolt to suggest that this law is necessary to fight pedophilia (which is already illegal in Russia) is just detached from reality.
National Post columnist Barbara Kay, a social conservative herself, wrote a great editorial in today's paper on the subject of Gwen Landolt's column, which she calls a "stunning moral gaffe". I agree with Ms Kay when she writes:
Ms. Landolt has compromised years of dignified advocacy work, and worse, set at an unbridgeable distance well-wishers and occasional collaborators such as myself. Does she realize the implications of what she has said? And from whose moral-relativist playbook she has drawn this leaf?
Her statement, first of all, offends against Christianity, which teaches that one may hate the sin, but must not hate the sinner. The death penalty for homosexuality — indeed any express form of persecution — is hatred of the sinner. It is not “unwise”; it is unjust, immoral.
More important for most Canadians, any persecution of gays offends against democracy and the ideal of individual rights, on which our freedoms are based. If Ms. Landolt believes it is justifiable to ignore the persecution of people whose beliefs or behaviours she is unsympathetic to, as long as it is happening elsewhere, she has lost the moral authority to criticize persecution in other countries of those whose beliefs and behaviours she is sympathetic to.
Thus, in one fell swoop, she has aligned herself with anti-Semites who shrugged as Jews were persecuted in Russia, self-loathing Westerners who do not criticize the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, and feminists who do not censure the disgusting practice of female genital mutilation because it is “their” cultural custom.
It is shocking that Ms. Landolt, a woman of high intelligence, does not see the bright line between her right to express her own private disapproval of homosexuality, and her obligation to respect and support the right of all individuals to live their lives according to their own desires, as long as they are not causing overt harm to others, without fear of judgment or curtailment of their liberties by the state.I respect the opinions of social conservatives and count many of them as my friends, but this goes beyond social conservatism and into sheer spite. Conservatives who support these policies deserve to be marginalized.