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EDITOR'S BLOG
Jun 17, 2014

Tolerance of intolerance waning

Lack of focus on sexuality of party leader in recent election refreshing
    

By Todd Humber

Of all the headlines I read during coverage of the recent Ontario provincial election, perhaps the most refreshing one was “Sexuality a ‘non issue’ during Wynne’s election campaign: Expert.”

And it’s true. There were plenty of contentious issues on the table during the election battle — but the fact that Kathleen Wynne, leader of the Ontario Liberals, was a lesbian was not one of them. (Nor was the fact she was a woman — and let’s take a moment and mark that historical achievement. Wynne is the first female to be elected premier in Ontario’s history.)

That lack of attention is refreshing.

For whatever reason, society is always taking baby steps when it comes to tolerance — but the lack of focus on Wynne’s sexuality during the ugly realities of a political campaign really is a watershed moment. It may be ironic to write a column focusing on the lack of attention, but it’s a moment that must be noted. Wynne isn’t the first openly gay politician to be elected in Canada, but she is the first premier.

Twenty years ago it’s doubtful an openly gay politician would be able to win her party's leadership race, let alone getting the keys to the premier’s office. Even a decade ago, it would have been tough. But now? It’s a non-issue.

And that’s how it should be in every facet of life. Anyone still sitting on the fence about LGBT equality is on the wrong side of history. It’s no more acceptable to discriminate on the basis of sexuality than it is on the basis of race.

Of course, one political win doesn’t mean discrimination is over. The United States has elected a black president twice, and nobody would make the argument that racism is a thing of the past south of the border.

But another brick in the LGBT wall came this week in the form of a workplace survey conducted by Sodexo. It found 67 per cent of 1,090 Canadians surveyed felt more should be done to welcome LGBT employees and nearly one-half (49 per cent) felt employers should be doing more to ensure LGBT employees feel comfortable being themselves in the workplace, according to a story posted on Canadian HR Reporter’s website.

Two major sports leagues — the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL) — have openly gay players on their rosters.

In recent years, organizations have had their hands forced by legislation and human rights tribunals to not discriminate in the workplace.

But now an even stronger force is coming into play — and that’s societal norms. We may never eliminate things like racism and discrimination, but they’re being marginalized.

Thankfully, we’re past the tipping point on tolerance of intolerance.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com or visit www.hrreporter.com for more information.


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