Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Several Councillors "explain" their resons for voting against the Gay Pride Flag being flown

From an article in the Truro Daily News

"The Truro Daily News attempted to contact all members of town council to find out why they voted against a request to fly the gay pride flag next week. We could not reach councillors Ray Tynes* and Brian Kinsman. Here are the responses we received:
“I felt that the sexual orientation is a life choice. I’m not against gay people and I have friends that are gay... The flag pole of a city should be used for the Canadian flag and the civic flag for the community.” Coun. Greg MacArthur
“I don’t think it’s the position of the municipality to celebrate anybody’s sexual orientation. That’s just the way it is, we don’t have heterosexual week, do we? I think that is a private matter and I don’t think the state has any function in that area.” Deputy mayor Charles Cox
“This decision isn’t about me or anything about me, it’s just about giving the same opportunities and equal access to all of our citizens. To me, it’s just a matter of respect, understanding and appreciation of differences.” Coun. Diane Bennett-Cook
“I did some inquiring before I made my vote. I have some friends who have chosen this lifestyle. Where my vote came across was respecting those people whom have made that lifestyle choice. The message they conveyed to me, that I was conveying in my vote, was that all members of the gay or lesbian community do not support flying the rainbow flag nor do all members support gay pride parades. In their opinion, their lifestyle is private, the same as yours or mine. Some of the actions therefore taken by members of their own community they feel this disrespects their lifestyle choice, demoralizes and is humiliating. Therefore my vote was one of respect for their lifestyle choice.” Coun. Sharron Byers"
* Ray Tynes, in a further (and somewhat more tempered) response to me early today, said that he had been unable to respond to reporters as he gets their answer machines.

His response was as follows:
"If you have been following the news every councillor has made their positions publicly clear except myself and one other. I can't speak for the other, but I was called by the press and everytime I returned their call I got that damn old inpersonable (sic) answering machine. It's funny when words like the nigger was left at the council chamber and the Mayor sat on it for a time but it made nation headlines, the press found me but this time I tried to follow up and got no answer and I know your support was there for me. The Mayor and everyone will hear my views, and no this matter is not over." Raymond [Tynes]
My responses to some of the explanations are:

Greg Arthur: "I felt that the sexual orientation is a life choice." Firstly, and again, personal opinion is not a basis for a decision in Council. Secondly, as this is NOT a lifestyle choice, you are mistaken in your opinion. Thirdly, what people do (or don't do) in the privacy of their bed chamber is not the sum total of their existence, nor is it a basis for discrimination by a public servant.

Charles Cox: "we don’t have heterosexual week, do we" Every day of the week is heterosexual day. Again, completely misses the point of Gay Pride.

Coun. Diane Bennett-Cook: "To me, it’s just a matter of respect, understanding and appreciation of differences." I applaud Ms. Bennett-Cook's support and her reasons for it.

Coun. Sharron Byers: "I have some friends who have chosen this lifestyle. Where my vote came across was respecting those people whom have made that lifestyle choice." All I can say is that, firstly, I doubt that she HAS any Gay friends for her to come to the conclusion that this is a "lifestyle choice". Secondly, no Gay person would refer to this as a "lifestyle choice". Thirdly, whether "Some of the actions therefore taken by members of their own community they feel this disrespects their lifestyle choice, demoralizes and is humiliating" for her alleged "Gay friends", this is not a basis for denying the rest of the Gay community from expressing their day as they wish. Nor, if one group of Christians were offended by the way that another group of Christians chose to celebrate Christmas, would this be a basis for not "allowing" any Christians to celebrate Christmas.

Ray Tynes: I'm not sure I actually understand what his views are but, if his initial response to me stating that his reason was that no other flag should be flown with the City flag, I cannot fault his decision. If he truly has a condemnation of the Mayor's remarks in mind and is willing to make them in the press, I cannot fault him. I will reserve judgment.

While it might have been nice to have him apologise for inferring that I was racist (or at least have "problems" with race issues), I understand that he may have misinterpreted my analogy to the issue of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and bias on the basis of race.

As I said in all of my emails to the various Councilors, whether the decision was to approve or deny the Gay Pride flag to fly is not the issue. It is the reasons used to base their individual votes that do matter. Basing the decisions on personal opinion and personal opinion coloured by bias, whether religious or cultural is the fundamental wrong.

As Mr, Tynes said, "this matter is not over".

Some other articles on the "flap":
"Rally held after Truro council rejects pride flag"
""The mayor of Truro has embarrassed a lot of Christians by interpreting the bible in a very unfavourable way," said Rev. David Fletcher, an Anglican priest. "If we want to shout bible passages back and forth, my bible bullet would come from Galatians in Chapter 3, where St. Paul says that in Christ, there is no more exclusion."
The Chronicle-Herald.ca: "Anti-gay remarks spark outrage"
"Truro woman is so incensed by her mayor’s stand on homosexuality that she has organized a rally in Truro today in support of gay pride.

"I don’t like to see anyone so marginalized and discriminated against," Sharon Farrell said in an interview Sunday night about her rally in Victoria Park.

"It’s solidarity with the gay community. To let our mayor know that not all of Truro agrees.""

The Chronicle-Herald.ca: "Rally brings out Truro’s true colours"

" Town’s mayor might not be willing to fly gay pride flag, but county’s mayor will"

""When I was elected, I was elected to represent everyone, not just those that look like me," Colchester County Mayor Mike Smith said Monday to the applause of more than 100 people who attended a gay rights rally here. "We are proud to celebrate equality and diversity. We will fly the flag. It will go up at 9 a.m. Tuesday."

"When I asked the mayor to fly the flag, I wasn’t prepared to get the horrible response that I got," Truro Pride member Charles Thompson told the crowd. "It floored me, but seeing the crowd here, seeing the response in the media, I now have to thank him because if he had put up the flag, it probably wouldn’t have even been noticed."

Ramona Westgate, a member of Pictou Pride, travelled to Truro to participate in the rally because she was appalled that Mr. Mills and Truro town council were blatantly refusing to support the rights of Truro’s gay community.

"Those rights are guaranteed in Canada’s Bill of Rights," she added. "If the mayor had done his research, he would know that Pride is a festival that celebrates diversity.""

The Globe and Mail: "Gays rally to protest council's disapproval"

"After last week's council decision, he (Charles Thompson) met with the mayor and was shocked by what he says he heard.

"He came at it as a religious person and that really threw me for a loop. When you're sitting in the mayor's office and he asks if you've accepted Jesus into your life, it's just 'wow,' " Mr. Thompson related in an interview yesterday.

"I told him, you quote that the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. But so is eating shellfish; are you going to ban that in Truro?"

Community reaction to the decision has been mixed, with an online poll at the Truro Daily News showing a 50-50 split. One councillor told the paper that the mayor speaks for a "large silent majority."

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