United Conservative leader regrets comments on gay hospital visitation rights

EDMONTON — Alberta's United Conservative leader says he regrets comments made in his earlier days about overturning a law extending hospital visitation rights to gay couples during the 1980s AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

Jason Kenney says, since then, his public record in Parliament shows he supports domestic partner arrangements and benefits for couples regardless of sexual orientation.

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Kenney made the comments after a two-decade-old audio recording of him surfaced recently.

On the recording, Kenney touts his role in organizing a petition calling for a referendum to repeal the city ordinance extending recognition rights of heterosexual couples, such as hospital visitation, to same-sex couples.

The ordinance was defeated by a narrow margin in a referendum.

Kenney, who is a Catholic, says on the tape he believes his actions brought him spiritually closer to his church.

"Sure, there are things that I've done and said in my life that I regret," Kenney said Thursday at the legislature.

"Is that (the San Francisco comments) one of them?" he was asked.

"Sure," he replied. "I can tell you in 2003, and '04 and '05 you can look at the Hansard transcript and see me supporting domestic partner arrangements for dependent couples regardless of sexual orientation.

"That has been my long-standing public view."

Kenney and his United Conservatives have an uneasy relationship with Alberta's gay community and have been denied permission to march in recent Pride parades.

The party is currently deliberating the fate of high-profile party member John Carpay, who publicly compared the pride rainbow flag to the Nazi swastika.

The United Conservatives have taken issue with the province's policy mandating gay-straight alliances in schools, particularly the law stating that parents not be told if a child joins such a group.

Proponents say some kids who join the alliances risk the wrath of their parents and that such a rule would effectively spell the end of such groups.

Kenney has said he wants parents to be told if not doing so puts the child at risk.

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