OTTAWA – It has all the hallmarks of a politician’s glossy Christmas card.
Pastoral setting? Check.
Doe-eyed golden retriever? Check.
Handsome couple dressed in smart casual? Check.
That was too much for “a handful of bigots” who objected to Scott Brison’s holiday greeting card depicting him and spouse Maxime St. Pierre, according to the Nova Scotia Liberal MP.
“The overwhelming response has been very positive,” Brison said from Windsor, N.S. “There’s always a very, very tiny minority of bigots. It’s their problem, it’s not my problem.”
At least one news website had to shut down its comments section running under a story about the card. The Globe and Mail web editor said the section was shut down because of “hateful and homophobic remarks.”
Toronto Star blogger Susan Delacourt tried a pre-emptive approach: she closed off comments before any vitriol could be posted.
“So crazy hateful people should probably just walk away from the keyboard now,” she wrote. “Yes, backward, just like that, slowly, hands in the air. There you go. Get outdoors; it’ll be good for you.”
But Matt Mills, editorial director of the gay news group Pink Triangle Press, said it’s a mistake to block homophobes.
“Gay and lesbian people do know that homophobia exists and is expressed all the time,” he said.
“Our approach is that shutting down comments when there are homophobic remarks that come out really just drives that homophobia underground and out of the public eye. It is an exercise, in some ways, in denial. And I don’t think that’s constructive … We can’t fight it if we can’t see it.”
Brison is one of the few openly gay members of Parliament. He married his partner in 2007, two years after same-sex marriage became legal in Canada. He easily won re-election last year.
The card features the two men standing in a field separated by their golden retriever, Simba, in Brison’s rural riding of King-Hants.
It’s the first time the couple have sent out a Christmas card together. The picture came from a photoshoot they were given as a wedding gift.
He and St. Pierre are warmly received wherever they go, he said.
“I guess the people who would post homophobic comments on a blog would not have the courage to do so directly to me.”
Since word began to spread about the card, calls have come into Brison’s office to ask for copies. Supporters have told him they shared a link to the post with friends and family in the United States to boast about Canada’s progressive attitude to same-sex marriage.
Brison insists there was no political message behind the holiday greeting.
“It’s a personal card,” he said. “I’m not the first politician to have a family picture on a Christmas card … I’m looking forward to the day when this is seen as no big deal.”