Vote against gay-straight alliances raises tempers in the legislature
Fallout continued at the Alberta legislature on Wednesday about a failed motion to make gay-straight alliances mandatory at schools where students want them.
On Monday, 22 Progressive Conservative members — including Education Minister Jeff Johnson — and nine Wildrose MLAs voted against Motion 503, which was introduced by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr.
The motion was supported by all the NDP and Liberal members who showed up for the vote, as well as 12 PC MLAs.
Although the vote was held on Monday, tempers flared during Wednesday’s question period.
While responding to a question from Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar called the Wildrose the "lake of fire" party — a reference to a former Wildrose candidate who used the phrase in a blog posting condemning gays and lesbians.
Bhullar's answer provoked heckling from Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson who ignored repeated requests by Speaker Gene Zwozdesky to quiet down.
Then Liberal leader Raj Sherman accused the Tories of having homophobes in their caucus.
“Are you a placeholder premier or a real premier who puts children first by standing up to the homophobes in your caucus?” Sherman asked.
Premier Dave Hancock said it was “reprehensible" that Sherman would accuse anyone in the house of being homophobic.
"There is no one in this house who has a better record for standing up for children than this honourable member and this premier," Hancock replied as he tapped on his desk.
Sherman later apologized and retracted the remark after it was raised on a point of order.
School boards should decide, Education minister says
Johnson voted against the motion because he believes school boards should decide the issue themselves.
“My stance is that we support GSA’s — they're fantastic groups,” he told the assembly.
“But we also respect the autonomy of school boards. So before we go into setting up sweeping legislation to marginalize school boards and take away their autonomy then I think we need to work with the school boards to try and resolve it there first.”
Hehr doesn't believe the issue of gay-straight alliances is over.
“I think people who voted against this bill the other day are on the wrong side of history,” he said.
“I think they're going to look at themselves and the next time this comes up, which I think will be sooner rather than later, I think you'll see many members of this house vote for GSA's.”
The student-run groups fight homophobia and are seen as a way to prevent the bullying of LGBT teenagers.
- An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated the number of Wildrose and PC members who voted against Motion 503. The correct figures are 9 Wildrose and 22 PC MLAs.Apr 09, 2014 9:24 PM MT