When Todd Hauptman calls Mary Polak this evening, he hopes it will be the first time he speaks with the B.C. Liberal candidate since announcing his resignation from her staff just one week before the vote.
On May 7, Hauptman, then a campaign manager, caused a stir in the province when he stepped down and issued a “letter to British Columbians” voicing concerns regarding anti-gay sentiments in Polak’s Langley riding.
“The very base of voters who will likely help Mary get re-elected in just one-week’s time are made up of individuals who hold hateful attitudes towards the community I am a part of,” he wrote. “It is knowing this that I simply cannot in good conscience support a campaign made-up of people who think of me as less of a person because I am gay.”
Polak, who is known for a position she took against LGBT-friendly books in schools in the mid-1990s, responded with a claim that Hauptman had shared strategy information with the NDP. She told media she was “very disappointed” and “hurt” by the news.
In his first interview since those events, Hauptman addressed criticisms of the timing of his resignation, fielded questions on rumours surrounding his motivations, and spoke at length about how the experience has changed his views on social justice.
“The timing and the way that I did it, in hindsight, could have been different,” Hauptman conceded. “But as I have said, it was a conflict that I had been dealing with for a few weeks, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer….I felt that by resigning, that was the best way to reconcile that conflict. So I did it.
“I didn’t do what I did to hurt Mary,” he continued. “I didn’t do what I did to make a name for myself. I did what I did, a) because I wanted there to be a dialogue about gay rights in communities across B.C., including conservative ones like Langley. And I wanted to stand for what I think is right.”
Hauptman recounted how he came to his decision to leave the campaign.
“The watershed moment for me was a Teachers’ Association debate on April 30,” he said. Polak was asked if she would celebrate queer students and apologize for the moves she made against LGBT equality during her tenure as a member of the Surrey School Board.
“Mary and I have had many conversations in my coming out journey,” Hauptman explained. “I thought that she was at a point where she could publicly begin to speak out about the issue. Still be true to who she is and true to her values, but still stand for what is right—equality and respect. But the answer she gave was a typically political response that I wasn’t looking for….It hurt on a personal level.”
Hauptman said that it was only two years ago that he told his friends and family he was gay, and emphasized that making a decision largely based on his sexuality was a difficult move to make.
“The debate was April 30 and I think that night, I started drafting the letter that I eventually mailed to media May 7. So from that night until May 7, I had been editing this letter and seeing whether I could reconcile this conflict, and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t anymore.”
“Next to my mother, Mary was the person I was most nervous about telling [I was gay]. She reacted way better than I thought she would,” however, Hauptman continued, it turned out that wasn’t enough. “Eventually, I couldn’t reconcile this conflict that started rising between who she is on a personal level and her public role and the base that makes sure that she gets elected.”
He said that he has always believed that change can happen through participation and working within an existing system, and expressed empathy for LGBT professionals in positions similar to his.
“Continue to speak out within your role as long as you can,” he offered in the way of advice. “And if a personal conflict like mine comes up, I would say do what your gut tells you is right.”
Hauptman categorically denied passing information to the NDP, and addressed speculation about switching parties. “Never say never,” he said, and emphasized that he plans on focusing on school and a public relations career in the private sector.
Hauptman also discussed how there are consequences LGBT individuals face when they remain quiet about who they are, and when they speak out.
“I think you pay a price with both, but I felt that with this option, I had peace of mind, and that I did the right thing,” he said.
“I’m now out of a job,” Hauptman noted. “There are a lot of people that I’ve made mad. I burned a lot of bridges. But would I do it again? Absolutely.”