A BC Conservative Party leadership candidate has said in a radio interview that gays should not have “special rights” because homosexuality is a choice.

John Cummins, who recently stepped down as Conservative Member of Parliament for Delta-Richmond East to run as leader of the BCCP, told Victoria’s CFAX Radio that he’s “not a scientist, [but] some of the research tells me that there’s more of an indication that that’s a choice issue.”

According to the Times Colonist (Victoria), Cummins later told reporters, “I’m pro-life, I’m protraditional marriage, that’s my view, I’m not a scientist.” He refused to defend his views, saying they were “personal issues, private issues.”

In 1996, as an MP, Cummins voted against introducing sexual orientation under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which lists “prohibited grounds of discrimination,” including religion, race and gender.

In the run-up to the recent election, many of us here in Canada were concerned that a majority Conservative government would put power in the hands of social conservatives who want to curb the rights of gays and lesbians. In 2006, 110 out of 124 Conservative MPs (and a minority of Liberals) voted unsuccessfully to turn back the clock on same-sex marriage and “restore traditional marriage,” in a free vote called for by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper, who returned to parliament with his first majority government last week, said during the election campaign he would not reopen the same-sex marriage debate. Cummins’s comments are a reminder that social conservatives — holding unscientific, religiously motivated views that can and will be used to discriminate against LGBT persons — are still a presence in Canadian politics.

Meanwhile, a new study finds that two out of three non-heterosexual kids in Canada don’t feel safe in their schools.

[This story has been updated to make a factual correction.]

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