One-time Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Scott Brison, who last year described Paul Martin’s years as finance minister as a “decade of lost opportunity,” has joined the Liberal Party. He’s singing a different hymn now, of course — it goes something like, “I do believe that in fact [Martin] will represent what I have been raised on, and that is progressive conservative values.” Terrible beat, but you can dance the cabinet shuffle to it.

Meanwhile, Peter Mackay, who is handing over the party of John A. MacDonald to religious wackos and robber barons, attributes Brison’s conversion to a nefarious conspiracy. According to The Globe and Mail, Mackay “blasted Mr. Brison’s defection as part of a campaign to ‘stigmatize’ the new Conservative Party of Canada as a far-right organization that mainstream Tories could not support.” Such a campaign does exist, begun by Alliance MP Larry Spencer who, on the eve of the merger vote, said he’d like to see homosexuality criminalized, citing a conspiracy by the fairer sexuality to recruit the young and powerful.

Brison, of course, loafs lightly himself. And though he says he “just happens to be gay” and so doesn’t let his preference for dangly bits guide his political decisions, he couldn’t have been happy with the suggestion from a soon-to-be caucus-mate that he and his partner of five years ought to be put behind bars. Indeed, Brison cited Spencer’s bigotry as contributing factor in his lateral move.

He’s insisted, though, that the prospect of his own party throwing him in jail for his lovestyle was not the main reason he left. Furthermore, Brison was apparently afraid of becoming The Gay MP of the Conservative Party, called upon to comment on interior design legislation and provide people like Spencer with an alibi when accused of bigotry. Unlike Svend Robinson (The Gay MP of the NDP), Brison doesn’t relish the role of gay-rights champion. He wants to grow up to be The Finance MP.

But we don’t always get to choose our battles; sometimes they choose us. And Brison will likely soon find himself called upon to be The Gay MP not just for a party, but for the government. With legislation on same-sex marriage ranking high on the news index for next year, it’ll be hard for Brison to offer no comment.

Brison’s preference for keeping his sexuality out of things, as reported last year in the Globe, is reasonable enough. “I view sexual orientation a lot like eye colour,” he said then, “I have no insecurities about it, but I don’t view it as a completely defining feature about who I am or what I represent.” Point taken. But when parliament tries to pass a bill saying that only brown-eyed people may marry, the blue-eyed members of the house can reasonably be expected to pipe up.

As the only openly gay member of the Liberal caucus (Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham being sort of in the closet with the door open, and married to a woman besides), Brison should be called on to stand up for his fellow homos. Martin’s team is making noises about scrapping same-sex marriage in favour of some kind of civil-union legislation. If Brison keeps silent on this kind of dilution, or speaks publicly in favour of it, he’ll be lending the government queer credibility. If he speaks against it, his words will carry the weight of personal injury. Either way, he’ll be making a statement, whether he means to or not.

So with any luck, Brison won’t be too uncomfortable with his role as The Gay MP Who Is Also One of the Very Many Finance MPs in his adopted party. Because Brison can’t pass his opinion off as just like everyone else’s when what’s up for debate is whether or not he’s entitled to participate in Canadian society to the same extent that morons like Spencer are. People will be looking to The Gay Liberal to speak up on the issue of whether gays are equal. They should expect him to. And he should. And they are.

Originally published in Eye Weekly on December 18, 2003.

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