The media blitz surrounding the Ontario legislative debate on Bill 7 (an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code naming “sexual orientation” as a prohibited ground of discrimination) last November and December downplayed the genuine concern of those opposed to the legislation that it would jeopardize such organizations as Big Brothers, and the rights of schools to refuse employment to homosexual teachers.
Conservative MP Robert Runciman (Leeds) referred directly to these concerns when he rose to take part of this speech is reprinted below:
“We all [Ontario MPPs] received a little publication called Are Gay Rights Right? From the Free Presbyterian Church…
“…They are talking about Minnesota, where a gentleman presented himself to the Big Brothers organization. We have heard many references to Big Brothers, which is an organization that attempts to introduce fatherless boys to men who would make exemplary role models for them. Given the increasing number of single-parent families, Big Brothers organizations throughout the country have experienced an expanding list of mothers who request Big Brothers as temporary fathers for fatherless boys; men to take their sons fishing, camping, hiking and to outdoor recreational activities that the mother cannot provide.
“This applicant was eager to become a Big Brother. While reviewing his résumé during the interview, the Big Brothers representative noticed several items that suggested homosexual affiliations. He asked the applicant whether he was a homosexual, and the man admitted that he was. Despite this revelation, the interview was not terminated.
“The interviewer mentioned that Big Brothers had a policy of revealing all facts they knew about potential Big Brothers to the mothers of their clients. Clients had the last word on the suitability of an applicant. If any of the facts were worrisome to a mother, she could decide not to have the man as a Big Brother. If none of the facts were objectionable, she could accept the proposed Big Brother for her son. It would work the same way with this revelation, the interviewer pointed out. If the mother had no objections to his homosexuality, he would be a Big Brother. It was her right either way.
“You might think that is a liberal policy, but it was not enough for the man who wanted to be a Big Brother. He immediately sued under the Minneapolis gay rights ordinance, alleging he had been discriminated against as a homosexual. The mere fact that his homosexuality was made known to the mother, he argued, would likely lead to his disqualification as a Big Brother. He was thus being discriminated against for this affectional preference.
“Big Brothers argued that there was nothing discriminatory about this policy. It made no comments, negative or positive about him. Its representative simply revealed all the facts, just as he would with other protected classes in the human rights law – race, colour, age, religion, sex, marital status and the like – and the decision was left to the mother.
“Despite the fair-sounding rationale of Big Brothers, the human rights officer found Big Brothers guilty of discrimination under the ordinance. He imposed costs on the organization of more than $6,000 and required Big Brothers to accept the homosexual as part of the organization without disclosing his homosexual preference to mothers of the sons who might go off on weekend outings with him.”
Here is another example from approximately the same time this took place in 1977:
“Father Buchanan, a Roman Catholic priest in St. Paul, was interviewing candidates for a position at Holy Childhood School. The position was music teacher for the eighth grade. A candidate listed past school employment in music and on the face of his résumé seemed qualified. The priest’s suspicions were raised, however, when the man insisted he wanted to teach boys. Further research revealed that the man was a homosexual. The decision seemed easy for the priest. His religious convictions and prudence dictated that he not permit a homosexual on the faculty.
“Again, the candidate sued, this time under the St. Paul gay rights ordinance, which was identical to the one in Minneapolis. The human rights agency made a preliminary determination of discrimination, and the file was turned over to the city attorney for prosecution with possible sanctions, including a 90-day jail sentence and a $300 fine. Ultimately, the St. Paul voters overwhelmingly repealed the gay rights ordinance.
“The two cases above reflect a harsh reality about legal solutions to political problems. They are always universally coercive. They may start innocently with theoretical discussions of liberty and equality and end, as in the case of the French Revolution, with the guillotine. The principle put into practice leads to an inevitable development of case-by-case resolutions that ends with a priest behind bars or a charitable organization wondering whether it ought to close its doors.
“This is not to say that no laws should exist. Some issues are so important to the social and political fabric of the country that society tolerates the accompanying coercion. Society is willing to coerce people into keeping their fists off other people’s noses and their fingers off other people’s wallets. Before society exercises its coercive power to override bona fide religious convictions and historic rights such as the right of a parent to exercise discretion in overseeing the moral character of those who come in contact with his or her child, there had better be substantial justification.”
Mr. Runciman voted against Bill 7.