Even though it has been Ottawa’s worst kept secret for years, the rumour (which in all likelihood has some truth to it) that Laureen Harper has moved out of 24 Sussex Drive and into the Chateau Laurier has been making the rounds yet again. The rumour also suggests not only that the Prime Minister’s wife has moved out because of marital difficulties, but insinuates that Laureen has also taken up with a female RCMP officer, and that her (rumoured) homosexuality forms the bulk of their marital discord.
Though it might seem a silly question to any American reader who would naturally wonder why on Earth a rumour that the family values-based, Conservative Prime Minister’s wife might have moved out because she is a lesbian, the question remains: why did this come up now?
In short, because the Globe and Mail pulled a piece by Canadian journalist Norman Spector in which Spector hypothesized why Laureen joined the Prime Minister in his end of year interview on CTV, and insinuated that it was an effort to portray the Harpers as a loving couple with few marital difficulties, when in reality they were, for all intents and purposes, separated. The Globe claimed that the story “fell short of The Globe and Mail’s editorial standards with respect to fairness, balance and accuracy,” and yanked it.
(Spector posted the full content of the piece on his website, and the harmless article – which never names names – can be read here.)
Spector himself was responding to a piece in the Ottawa Citizen from several weeks ago in which another Canadian journalist and journalism professor, Andrew Cohen, noted that,
In Ottawa, tongues have been wagging for two years about trouble in one political marriage. One of the partners is now said to have left the nest. It hasn’t made the newspapers, at least not yet.
Spector, like Cohen, put two and two together and suggested in the Globe that Laureen’s surprise visit in the CTV interview had less to do with paying homage to a departing CTV broadcaster in Lloyd Roberston, and more to do with presenting a united front. That if, in fact, the Harper’s were the political marriage that tongues had been wagging about for years, the rumours were baseless.
When asked about their marriage on camera, Harper was quick to jump in and answer for he and Laureen stating that,
“Well, you know, we have a strong relationship,” said Mr. Harper. “I think, to be frank about it, I mean the demands are all on Laureen. Laureen is a very giving person. Laureen allows me to concentrate as fully as I do on the job and then on other things. She doesn’t put a lot of demands on me.”
For Spector’s effort at shedding light on the issue, his piece was pulled. Cohen received the same treatment in the Citizen – Cohen’s broken URL can be seen here.
I like that Canada’s media has respect for our political leaders to allow something personal like this to fly under the radar. The odds of this personal matter spilling into the political realm and clouding the stern and authoritarian Prime Minister’s judgement is slim enough that the success (or failure) of the Harper’s marriage is no business of the Canadian people’s, despite their both being public figures. If Mrs. Harper is happier outside their marriage, without or without the company of another person, same-sex or otherwise, Mountie or no, then she deserves to have that happiness the same as any other citizen, public or private.
That said, I think the Canadian public deserves to know what is going on with this. And here’s why: notwithstanding that I still firmly believe everything said in the previous paragraph, she has a right to live her life in the open. While no one has the right to out another human being if they do not wish their sexual preferences made public (the state having no place in the bedrooms of the nation and all that), Laureen has a tremendous opportunity to tell Canada that’s going on and why, in addition to helping convince others there is nothing wrong with being yourself, and that that often takes more courage than lying through the sin of omission.
Forget that the Prime Minister’s head would explode if the knowledge became confirmed in the public eye, and that a majority of his right-wing caucus would have a field day with the news. What more courageous act could she do than inform Canadians not only that she is more than a political appendage of her conservative husband and entitled to her own happiness, but that if she is gay, that there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, that it is worse for them to be pretending and putting on airs when the country is already in on the news. It is like pretending the other actors onstage cannot hear your Shakespearean aside because it is intended only for the audience – they only pretend not to hear you because it’s in the script.
But Laureen has a chance to go off script, to deviate from what her socially conservative husband and his socially conservative supporters would want and do a tremendous good for herself, for young people struggling with their sexuality who may look up to her, and for the country. It would be leading by the kind of example that Rick Mercer recommended gay public figures do by outing themselves, insisting they are “not allowed to be invisible anymore” with the rate of gay teen suicide in Canada what it is.
Some have long wondered what such a wonderful, intelligent, and caring woman has seen in Stephen Harper, anyway. Finding out she is in a sham marriage and having the courage to leave it publicly would only increase our respect for Laureen…and make Stephen seem more human.