Member of Kelowna’s queer community says local MP delivered 'punch in the stomach' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Member of Kelowna’s queer community says local MP delivered 'punch in the stomach'

Kelowna Pride Festival 2019

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray’s vote against banning conversion therapy feels “like a punch in the stomach” to Kelowna's LGBTQ community, according to the leader of Kelowna's Task Force to Ban Conversion Therapy.

READ MORE: Public apology demanded from Kelowna MP Tracy Gray for her stand on conversion therapy

“It really doesn’t show that you’re an advocate or an ally of the community when you just show up for (LBGQT+  events) and then ask us to look back to see that you’ve done that as evidence that you support the community when you vote against a bill like that," Wilbur Turner, who is also the former chair of Kelowna Pride, said.

Turner said Gray's actions remind locals of the early 2000s when Mayor Walter Gray (her uncle by marriage) refused to sign a proclamation declaring Gay Pride Week.

“This move by Tracy Gray really pulls people’s minds back to that,” Turner said. “That was a traumatic event as well for the community and this is just as harmful because it’s about who we are.”

One of his concerns is that, despite her contact with what Turner calls the queer community, she never consulted with that community before voting.

“I’ve met with her many times when she’s been at the Pride events,” he said. “She knows many people in the community. She’s rubbed shoulders with many of us at events. For her not to talk to anybody first and say ‘what do you think about this?’ before her vote, it just seems really unconscionable.”

Gray has yet to respond to Turner or the media on the call for an apology. Her office told July 27 that she was preparing a statement but it had not been delivered as of publication time.

Turner is also concerned that Gray’s main objection to the bill is that the wording is unclear about what parents and others can say to children about their gender identity.

That mirrors the rhetoric of the website that lobbied to change the wording in the legislation. He’s heard that a couple of Conservative MPs and some churches are behind that effort but has no indication that Gray is involved directly.

He’s just concerned that she’s taking talking points from that organization rather than following her own Conservative Party leader, Erin O’Toole, who supported the legislation and helped it pass.

READ MORE: Kelowna's Tracy Gray only MP in region to vote against ban on conversion therapy

As the leader of the Kelowna Task Force to Ban Conversion Therapy  Turner has talked to Mayor Colin Basran and some city councillors in an effort to get them to ban conversion therapy in Kelowna, as more than a dozen other Canadian cities have started to do.

“One of the projects I’m working on is to expose the religious organizations – churches here in the Okanagan – that are still believing that homosexuality is a sin and can be prayed away,” Turner said.

“There is a local couple that came to me that were going to a local church. They were told by the pastor that they were accepted as a gay couple to come there and then, immediately after, they started getting emails and messages from elders in the church with information on people who had gone through some kind of conversion therapy and were calling themselves ex-gay. So it happens right here.

“Conversion therapy is saying that we’re broken, we need to be fixed. That’s a huge huge thing so it’s like a punch in the stomach for everybody seeing that vote be against (banning) it.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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