Toronto's public school board has shot down a move to ask the city whether it plans to crack down on public nudity at this year's Pride parade.
Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos said he couldn't be part of "tacit support of nudity" in the annual Pride parade, which the Toronto District School Board has taken part in since 1996.
Toronto hosts World Pride this June. The event is expected to draw two million people to the city over a nine-day festival.
Sotiropoulos' fellow trustees opted not to even debate his motion Wednesday night, moving straight to a vote. People sitting in the public gallery, including some queer TDSB teachers, applauded as the motion was defeated 6-16.
Before the meeting, about two dozen demonstrators stood against Sotiropoulos' motion outside the TDSB's Yonge St headquarters. Wearing rainbow buttons, they banged on drums and sang "Hey Sam, get off of our Pride" and the Beatles' "All You Need is Love".
Demonstrators called Sotiropoulos' motion homophobic and damaging to the both the queer community and to young people questioning their sexuality.
Sotiropoulos wasn't surprised his motion was so soundly defeated.
"I believe this board is out of touch with the majority of the population in this city, has been for quite some time", he told reporters.
Sotiropoulos said he had received hundreds of emails of support, though many of those supporters didn't want to come forward for fear of being labelled.
Trustee Maria Rodrigues characterized Sotiropoulos' motion as being part of "a Conservative, right-wing, homophobic agenda."
Rodrigues fought back tears as she read aloud a motion asking the board to re-affirm support for Pride Toronto. The move was overwhelmingly adopted, with only three votes against.
"To me, it's about human rights and the right to express yourself", she later explained. "And I want our students in our school board to feel good about themselves, to feel included in everything in the school board and in society and to be able to stand up for themselves and to stand for justice."
Trustees used discussion on Rodrigues' motion as a chance to sound off on the nudity issue.
Sotiropoulos, who has never been to Pride, pointed out that the board offers no disclaimer to parents about stripping down at the parade. But Sotiropoulos says he's no prude. He has been to nude beaches in Europe, though he didn't strip down himself. Sotiropoulos said the difference is that those beaches are clearly marked and the nudity doesn't spill into the city centre.
Sheila Cary-Meagher didn't see the big deal. "If you do not wish to see other people's dangly bits, don't go (to Pride). Don't take your children."
Trustee Jerry Chadwick says it's an issue for parents, not the school board. Sheila Ward agreed they should butt out.
"I'd suggest we have enough to do just trying to get ourselves un-muddled at the TDSB, without mussing into everybody else's business in the city", Ward told the board.
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