Freedom of expression questioned
By Sabrina Carinci
The debate for the proclamation of a gay pride weekend in the city continues as members of the Homophile Association of London, Ontario have asked Mayor Dianne Haskett to take action or step aside.
A human rights inquiry into why the mayor refused to proclaim a Gay Pride weekend in 1995 wrapped up Wednesday. While the results of the 11.5 hour hearing are yet to be announced, Haskett's position remains and she formally states, "I never meant any harm to the gay community."
"We've held events before but we had never asked for a proclamation," said Richard Hudler, a representative for HALO.
Haskett said that in the spring of 1995, as a means of her own freedom of expression, she decided to remain uninvolved in decisions regarding both abortion and sexuality because they were against her religious beliefs. This decision also meant she would refrain from making proclamations for any issue which would cause controversy within the religious community.
According to Haskett it was not until after her decision was made in the spring of 1995 that HALO asked her to provide the association with a proclamation for a gay pride weekend.
Jim Barber, lawyer for the City of London, refused to comment on any of Haskett's views or comments but stated her decision to remain uninvolved in aspects against her religious beliefs is in accordance with section 2b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to Barber, this section states her decision to keep out of these matters is part of her personal freedom not to express her opinion.
Upon hearing of the mayor's reluctance in the matter, Hudler wrote a letter to her which asked her to step aside and allow someone else to proclaim the weekend if the issue was so strongly against her religious views. Hudler said she still refused.
"It was very hurtful," Hudler said. "It demonizes us. It makes us seem as if we are against God."
Hudler believes what has happened is discriminatory and hopes HALO will meet with the city representatives in order to remedy the issue and improve relationships between the two sides.
HALO has been located in London for approximately 23 years and continues to provide the gay and lesbian community with personal and anonymous counselling.