Video emerged this week showing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer declaring in the House of Commons that gay marriage lacked an “inherent feature” of marriage, and are “contradictory” to the “very survival of society.” 

It’s worth presenting the quote in full:

“There is nothing more important to society than the raising of children, for its very survival requires it. Homosexual unions are by nature contradictory to this. There is no complementarity of the sexes. Two members of the same sex may use their God-given free will to engage in acts, to co-habit and to own property together. They may commit themselves to monogamy. They may pledge to remain in a loving relationship for life. In that sense they have many of the collateral features of marriage, but they do not have its inherent feature, as they cannot commit to the natural procreation of children. They cannot therefore be married.”

You can decide for yourself whether or not this is bigotry. My view is that it most certainly is. Denying anyone basic rights on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong on its face. And to justify doing so on the grounds that the extension of equal rights would threaten the survival of society is not just absurd, it’s bigoted.

Scheer’s defenders have leapt to argue that we can’t hold the man accountable for what he said in 2005. This was a different time, they say. And they’re correct in the sense that open bigotry against the LGBTQ community was more accepted then. 

But does that make it okay? No. Those who expressed these views then — and the crowd is much larger than just Mr. Scheer — should not be able to skate by without accounting for their mistake. They should have to reckon with the fact that they were wrong, and own up to that. 

People in the wrong can change their mind, and when they do we should welcome that. But not only does Mr. Scheer offer no contrition for his words, it appears that he hasn’t actually changed his view at all.

In an interview with CBC in 2016, Rosie Barton pressed Scheer on his views about gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. This was a chance to put the matter to rest and declare his support for equal marriage. Instead he mumbled through some half-answer about his party’s official position on the matter. That was three years ago. 

Mr. Scheer has yet to attend a Pride parade, something every other Federal political leader has done. Even Doug Ford showed up to one this year. Why does he continue to boycott these events? 

Andrew Scheer has had multiple opportunities to turn the corner on the bigoted views he expressed in 2005. He has refused to take them. What should we make of this? The only conclusion a rational person could make is that he still holds those beliefs.

Some might argue that this doesn’t actually matter. As long as he doesn’t legislate his personal beliefs, then Canadians have nothing to worry about. But why should we believe Mr. Scheer won’t translate his views on LGBTQ matters into law? 

In the Ontario election of last year, Doug Ford repeatedly promised that he would not cut any programs or services. He pledged that not a single person would lose their job under his administration.

As we all know, Ford was elected, and immediately set about firing thousands of teachers and making deep cuts to healthcare, education, and virtually every other public service he could get his hands on.

Do we have strong evidence that Mr. Scheer would not do the same, on a whole range of issues about which he feels strongly but which would not be politically prudent to talk about before the election? The man isn’t a dummy. He knows he can’t express his beliefs about gay marriage and abortion in public without losing votes. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t use his power — should he win it — to legislate on these matters.

Or are we now so naive as to take politicians at their word in the middle of an election campaign? 

Actions, not words, are what count. If Andrew Scheer wants Canadians to believe that he won’t roll back marriage rights and equal treatment of LGBTQ people, he should renounce his past position on the matter. He should apologize for his bigoted remarks. And he should march in a Pride parade, like every other party leader. 

If he won’t do these simple things, we should ask why — and we should consider what he would do were he to win power in October.