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Fired because he's gay

It was a time of protests, legal fights and backlash. With a growing sense of solidarity, gays and lesbians became more visible in Canadian society in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. Homosexuality gradually became more accepted as more Canadians came out of the closet to demand equality under the law.

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It's been a year since John Damien was fired from his job as a racing judge with the Ontario Racing Commission because he is gay. Not only has it deprived him of a livelihood, it's made his private life very public. Damien has finally found another job, with the federal Department of National Revenue, but as he tells Barbara Frum of As It Happens, he's not giving up on the old one yet.
. Damien's employer was concerned his sexual orientation might make him vulnerable to blackmail, and offered him a cash settlement if he would resign. He refused.
. When he was fired, Damien approached the Toronto branch of a gay-rights group, Gay Alliance toward Equality. With their help the Committee to Defend John Damien was formed, and Damien launched two lawsuits: one against his employer, and one against the person who had revealed his homosexuality to his employer.

. After many appeals, countersuits and other delays, a resolution in the case came in 1986. The Ontario Racing Commission paid $50,000 — a year's salary plus interest — into a trust fund in exchange for Damien's dropping the case. Damien was sick with pancreatic cancer, and died a short time later.

. Damien had approached the Ontario Human Rights Commission about his case, but the OHRC declined to help because it did not deal with cases of sexual orientation at the time. This led Damien's supporters to demand that the Ontario Human Rights Code be changed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The change was made in 1986.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: March 8, 1976
Guest(s): John Damien
Host: Alan Maitland
Interviewer: Barbara Frum
Duration: 6:05
Photo: National Archives of Canada: Harold Whyte/Weekend Magazine/PA-155709

Last updated: February 6, 2012

Page consulted on October 6, 2014

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