John Cummins, the future leader of the B.C. Conservative Party, says his comments about gay people have been "misinterpreted."

Last week, Cummins told Victoria radio station CFAX that being gay is a choice, and the Human Rights Code should not specifically protect sexual orientation.

He sent out a statement Sunday saying his comments had been misinterpreted and apologized if they offended anyone.

"To clarify, my use of the word 'choice' was unfortunate, because it confused the meaning of my statement, which was that I believe anyone can live their life in the way they want," Cummins said in the statement.

B.C.'s Human Rights Code

Section 7  (1) A person must not publish, issue or display, or cause to be published, issued or displayed, any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that

  • (a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a group or class of persons, or
  • (b) is likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt

because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or that group or class of persons.

Canadian Human Rights Act

3. (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted..

"I don't know how sexual orientation develops," he said. "That discussion is best left to experts and researchers, not politicians. What really matters to me is how we treat diversity."

"All British Columbians, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation should have the same equal opportunities and protections in our society. We all should be treated equally before the law, and no group in society warrants preferential treatment," he said.

"I believe that while moral issues are important to the private lives of many people in this province, there is no consensus in our party or among the public on these issues and we have no intention to change the status quo." 

A spokesperson said Cummins would not be available for further comment on the controversy on Monday morning.

Cummins was touring Vancouver Island last week when he made his comments about measures that specifically protect sexual orientation under the Human Rights Code.

Cummins said that as an MP, he voted against adding sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination under Canada's Human Rights Act.

"In my view, it was not necessary to add another category," Cummins said Wednesday on CFAX. "People are fully protected under the Human Rights Code."

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

The comments sparked outrage among gay rights groups.

Discrimination against people for their sexual orientation is prohibited under both B.C.'s Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Cummins was the only candidate to run for the leadership of the B.C. Conservative Party. Members are expected to officially proclaim the former federal MP as their leader at their convention on May 28.