It was a Pride event that started the conversation and Jordan Stringer feels an upcoming Pride event could be the opportunity to bring closure to it.
Earlier this week Stringer took to Facebook to express his displeasure at seeing Corner Brook MHA Gerry Byrne taking part in a Pride flag raising at city hall Monday.
In the post Stringer, a gay man, went back to 2005 when Byrne, then a Liberal MP, went against his own party on the issue of same-sex marriage. Byrne missed the vote in the House of Commons that ultimately granted that right.
Back then Stringer said he challenged Byrne on the position he took, including writing a letter to him, but never received a response.
Stringer didn’t make it clear at the time that he was a gay man and felt he could speak to Byrne as a constituent who did not agree with the way he voted.
“I didn’t feel I was in a place where I could openly and safely say, ‘I’m a gay man and I don’t like what you’re doing, this goes against my basic human rights.’”
But when he saw Byrne holding the Pride flag he felt it was time to make it clear that the perspective he was coming from was as one of Byrne’s gay constituents.
“It was my personal life and for a long time there I did not have the same rights around marriage as straight people. I felt in a large part that my elected official was not just neutral but flat out multiple times voted against my equality,” he said.
Stringer says Byrne owes not just him, but the entire LGBTQ community an apology for his past actions.
That’s something Byrne said he has no intention of doing, but he’s open to engaging in a discussion with Stringer.
Byrne said his vote of 13 years ago was about what the constituency of the time wanted.
He said there was no formal survey or directed consultation, but he did receive significant feedback on the issue.
When asked what his personal thoughts were on the issue, Byrne responded with, “I don’t have personal thoughts.
“We are representatives of the people. It’s important to represent the interests of the people.”
He went on to say that he does support same-sex marriage.
“But I never allow my personal opinion to influence my vote.”
He said what’s clear to him today as it was back then is that positions, perceptions and acceptance has fundamentally changed on the issue.
“There has been a real evolution of thought and a progressive acceptance towards gay marriage rights and to LGBTQ equality rights.”
He said that is something he feels in the constituency and it is true across the country.
Still Stringer hopes Byrne will recognize what he did before was wrong.
“If he truly understands the plight of the LGBTQ community he’ll understand that apology and recognition and taking ownership for past errors is part of that healing process.”
Stringer said the Pride parade taking place in the city Saturday would provide a great opportunity for Byrne to attend and apologize for mistakes of the past and show appreciation for being accepted by the community.
“If he doesn’t want to own up to me in my face, own up to the community,” said Stringer.