Toronto councillors give initial approval for Gay Pride Day

Toronto Star. June 2, 1989

Toronto City Council has agreed to proclaim Gay and Lesbian Pride Day and hang a celebratory banner on Nathan Philips Square on June 25.

It is the first time since the annual celebration began in 1981 that the day has been officially proclaimed.

But yesterday's 9-5 decision is not final because one councillor has requested the issue be discussed again in two weeks.

Mayor disagrees

Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton, who has the authority to declare special days the city should celebrate, has steadfastly refused to proclaim Gay and Lesbian Pride Day despite repeated requests from the city's homosexual community.

Angered by the mayor's position on the issue, Councillor Jack Layton asked council last month to throw its support behind the day.

"I believe sexual orientation is an individual matter and it is none of the government's business," Eggleton told council yesterday in defence of his position.

Sexual orientation

"Discrimination, however, is government business and I have spoken out against it on many occasions and even before a provincial committee," he said. "This event does not focus on discrimination and as far as I can tell is a celebration of sexual orientation."

But Layton said Gay and Lesbian Pride Day meets five out of six general criteria for special proclamations and should be recognized by the city. Most other groups only need to meet one of the general criterion, he noted.

"We declare weeks, months and days to just about everybody who comes in here," Layton said, refering to a list of some 500 groups which have had days proclaimed since 1983.

Dog days

Pure bred dogs, Scottish Canadians and the Toronto Symphony rummage sale are all celebrated through proclamations, he noted.

"It's a service provided by the municipality and not to do it is discrimination," he said.
Councillor Howard Levine told council many other cities proclaim similar days to celebrate gays and lesbians in their communitites and urged Toronto to "get out of the 19th century."

But Councillor Tony O'Donohue said he has "better things to discuss" and criticized Layton for bringing "such a divisive" issue before council.

Although yesterday's decision was a major break-through for the city's gay and lesbian community, the victory may be short-lived.

Three councillors who oppose the move were absent for yesterday's vote and will likely vote against it at the next meeting. If all councillors are on hand for the vote and hold their positions, the proclamation won't stand.

Copyright 1989 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.
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