Whistler couple making same-sex marriage an election issue 

Skerritt, Rein fed up with ‘all the right-wing’ parties that oppose gay marriages

The Conservatives have done a lot to generate interest and attention during this election campaign but there are two issues that party leader Stephan Harper has stumbled over or avoided: the war in Iraq and same-sex marriage.

With regards to Iraq, many believe the Conservatives would have sent Canadian troops to fight alongside the Americans, despite the fact that most Canadians were against such an action.

But with the war over, the U.S. about to hand over governance to the Iraqis, and UN involvement in Iraq becoming more likely, Iraq has declined as an issue. Meanwhile, the debate about gay rights and same-sex marriages is gaining some momentum.

And directly or indirectly, the issue affects many people in the Sea to Sky corridor, including those who benefit from the thousands of gay travellers that spend money here every year.

Tourism Whistler marketing vice-president Arlene Schieven said that during Altitude week alone gay people inject about one million dollars into Whistler’s economy every year.

She also said Tourism Whistler is working on a global strategy to attract more gay travellers to Whistler.

"Tourism Whistler recognizes that the gay and lesbian segment is a growing market and is driving incremental room nights throughout the year," said Schieven.

"For 2004 and beyond, Tourism Whistler has increased its commitment in marketing to the gay and lesbian segment in destination markets through print advertising, collateral and Web site content."

Schieven said Tourism Whistler had specific interest in the German, Australian and North American gay markets and is working at collating a network of gay media to help promote Whistler.

"Last year the media relations team hosted over 10 gay media outlets from around the world, including MyGayWorld, Gloss, Genre, Xtra West, Buzz, Fab, and Sergej magazine from Germany."

But for Whistler to truly reach out to the gay community it has to involve more than just a business strategy.

Dr Lisa Skerritt and Amy Rein are a lesbian couple who own a business and live in Whistler.

They have two children: their son Ethan is two and Skerritt just gave birth to Emma two weeks ago.

Both women are educated and articulate and they will soon be married, but right now they are livid at the Conservatives and "all the other right-wing" parties that oppose same-sex marriage.

Skerritt said she never really cared about the fact that same-sex marriages are not recognized by the federal government in the same way straight marriages are – until she had children.

"I never cared before when I was single and living in the West End. I was happy to be considered different and not accepted by the religious right because I don’t agree with most things they say anyway. But now I have children I take it personally," said Skerritt.


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