Tory bill on gay-straight alliances passes second reading
Bill 10, the legislation introduced by the governing Tories to counter a private member's bill making gay-straight alliances mandatory in all schools, passed second reading Tuesday after an emotional debate in the Alberta legislature.
Forty-two PC MLAs voted in favour of second reading and 10 MLAs opposed, including Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk who was the only Tory to vote 'nay.'
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and her caucus colleague Jeff Wilson also voted against second reading, along with NDP and Liberal members in the house.
Smith became choked up while telling the legislature about LGBT teens who were disowned by family, beaten or kicked out of school after coming out about their sexuality.
“While I respect that we need to find a balance with parental rights and with religion, I think we also need to respect that in cases of mature youth this really is case of life or death for some of them," Smith said.
Lukaszuk's decision to vote against the bill was not a surprise. He discussed his intentions with reporters earlier in the day.
“I don’t believe in bestowing human rights on people in an incremental manner,” he said.
“If you believe it in it, if you believe that students should have it, then you should not set up legislative obstacles through which they have to get through to get it.”
Premier Jim Prentice and Health Minister Stephen Mandel were not present for the vote.
Catholic school boards not happy
On Monday, the government introduced Bill 10, which effectively killed Bill 202, which was introduced by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman earlier in the session.
Unlike Blakeman's bill, Bill 10 would compel students to take their school boards to court if they are prohibited from forming a GSA.
Progressive Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen said on Tuesday’s Edmonton AM that some Alberta school boards were concerned about the student groups becoming mandatory if Blakeman's Bill 202 became law.
Jansen declined to identify the boards, but Blakeman has learned that the direction on GSAs is coming from Catholic leaders in Calgary and Edmonton. She said Catholic school boards in Alberta are refusing to allow students to form gay-straight alliances.
“The investigation that we’ve done and the response that we saw, we were copied on the letters back to Minister Dirks, it’s the Catholic schools that won’t allow them,” Blakeman said.
Blakeman's request to meet with Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith about Bill 202 was turned down by his office.