Mayor apologizes for 'homophobic actions' that kept rainbow flag from flying in London
'I am apologizing because I believe we simply cannot afford to be silent bystanders any longer.'
It's been a stain on London for almost a quarter century.
On Friday, Mayor Matt Brown apologized to the gay community for a 1995 decision by then-mayor and council's to deny a gay pride proclamation.
"It's far past due to make this apology for the city of London's intolerant and insensitive and homophobic actions of the past. Today I stand before you and wholeheartedly say, 'I am sorry,'" Brown said on the steps of city hall.
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Beside him was Richard Hudler, the man who successfully filed a human rights complaint over the city's refusal to raise the rainbow flag.
The Human Rights Commission found that then-Mayor Dianne Haskett and council had violated Hudler's human rights.
"It hurts. It hurts to know that any Londoner was ever made to feel unworthy, unwelcome, unloved because of who they love and because of their gender identity," said Brown.
Hudler said he couldn't have taken on the battle without members of the public, a few city councillors, and the Homophile Association of London, Ontario (HALO).
"We know much work remains to be done in support of people who are different ... No longer can I presume to speak for our communities, but personally I would like to accept this apology, and to thank the mayor very much," Hudler said.
'Everyone in this community is worthy'
Brown acknowledged that some have criticized his apology, coming in an election year, as opportunistic and political.
"That concerns me and disheartens me. I need everyone here to know that I am apologizing because I believe we simply cannot afford to be silent bystanders any longer," he said.
"I am here to tell you that everyone in this community is worthy and everyone in this community is welcome in 2018."
Some would have wanted the apology to come from council, or to be sanctioned by council.
Local activist Shawn Lewis has asked that council affirm the apology.
"I want to rid people of this notion that this is only the mayor who is making this apology and I want city council to affirm and acknowledge it," Lewis said after the apology.
"While I do not claim to speak on behalf of the entire LGBTQ2 community, I can say as a gay Londoner, the actions of that previous council has haunted those of us who remember that time," Lewis wrote in a letter to council.
"For many, those actions were a message that gay and lesbian Londoners weren't really welcome here and that we should either 'stay in the closet' and not be true to ourselves, or just move along."
'We stood and we advocated'
Also speaking at the event at city hall was activist Megan Walker, who sat on the council that refused to issue the proclamation.
Walker and four others voted against the majority.
She said she and the others wanted Hudler and the gay community to be supported.
"We stood and we advocated to ensure that one day your human rights would be recognized by the city of London," Walker said.