Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Main thing is governing, not her sexuality: Wynne

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TORONTO -- Becoming the first openly gay premier in Canada is "historic" and "exciting," but it shouldn't overshadow her role in governing the country's most populous province, Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne said Sunday.

The premier-to-be said she feels a "special responsibility" to young gay people who are looking for a more accepting world, but she's not a gay activist and doesn't plan to spend the next few months talking about her sexual orientation.

"It is important to me that young people and people who are frightened see the possibilities," she said, "and if I can help people to be less frightened, then that's a wonderful, wonderful thing."

But for her, the real historic moment is becoming the sixth woman premier in Canada.

"We've wondered about why we haven't had a higher percentage of women in legislatures and in Parliament," she said. "Well, maybe now we're reaching a critical mass."

Wynne's victory as Ontario's Liberal leader and next premier is a significant historic moment for the country, said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights group.

But having an out, progressive woman to lead the province is something to be proud of too, she said.

"It sends a strong message to those young kids who are cautious and nervous about their own journey with respect to their sexual orientation and gender identity, that you can do it if you're true to yourself," Kennedy said.

It's also important for the parents of LGBT children to know their kids can be and do whatever they want, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, she added.

It's a "giant leap forward" at a social and cultural level for Ontario, said Bryan Evans, a politics professor at Toronto's Ryerson University.

"But at the end of the day, I think issues of identity are secondary to 'are we electing somebody who can do the job and move Ontario forward in a difficult time,' " he said.

Wynne, 59, was married to a man and had three children before she came out at age 37. She is now married to her longtime partner, Jane Rounthwaite.

While her sexuality wasn't a secret at Queen's Park and Wynne didn't shy away from it, it wasn't something she spoke about publicly in her work as a cabinet minister.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2013 A9

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