Manitoba's First Openly Gay Politician Retiring After 16 Years
He watched opposition politicians vote against his right to adopt children and enjoy spousal benefits.
The early 2000s were not that long ago, but seem like a different era to Jim Rondeau.
Back then, Manitoba’s first openly gay legislature member sat on the government’s backbench and watched opposition politicians vote against his right to adopt children, enjoy spousal benefits and have other rights equal to heterosexuals.
“Even though the (Progressive) Conservatives said each person had their own option to vote how they wanted — it was a matter of conscience — I was really upset that not one Tory voted for it,” Rondeau said in an interview at his home.
He was referring to a 2002 bill in the legislature that extended equal rights to same-sex couples.
“It bothered me because … a number of Tories that I know personally and get along with didn’t stand up for the law … I think in spirit they would have. It’s just politically, they didn’t.”
Rondeau watched as people at public hearings said same-sex couples such as him and his partner, Dennis Tam, should not be given equal rights.
“It was very stressful,” Tam recalled. “I asked Jim, ‘How do you deal with very difficult topics such as this?’ And what he told me is, 'You have to do what is right.’”
The bill passed, thanks to the NDP’s majority, and soon afterward same-sex marriage — an issue under federal jurisdiction —was legalized.
Now 56, Rondeau is preparing to leave his 16-year political career behind, knowing things are a lot different than when he started.