Pride Toronto is offended by alien supporters. Well, the Raelians, anyway, who had some of their posters covered up in the parade.
With their mouths bound in black ribbon, and bearing signs reading “Not allowed by Pride,” members of the Raelian movement were a sharp contrast to the rest of the Pride Parade entries last week.
“The ribbons were to show the community that the Raelians were not allowed to speak,” says Taye Sabrice, head of the Toronto Raelian group and spokesperson for the Raelian Pride float. “They said our message was discriminatory and they didn’t want to offend gay Christians or gay Muslims…. Well, Pride has become politically correct.”
The Raelians claim to be an atheist organization. They say that human life on earth was created by extraterrestrial beings.
After the Raelians showed up in the parade staging area, organizers asked the Raelians to cover some of their posters. One featured a picture of the Pope and text reading, “Official sponsor of AIDS,” “The homophobic religion that kills!” and “Protect yourself, renounce your baptism.”
The phrases are a response to comments made last October by Catholic Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo. Trujillo told the BBC that condoms are permeable and AIDS could pass through them, so people should be discouraged from using them. His statements were condemned by the World Health Organization.
“It’s unfortunate that the Vatican is using such disinformation,” says Sabrice. “We cannot accept that, we as the Raelian movement, so our message was to inform people.”
Pride Toronto asked that Raelians either cover the signs or not participate in the parade. Organizers did allow the Raelians to hand out their postcards that depicted the same image that was on the side of the float.
“It was really offensive to the Catholic church. You’ve got to be really offensive to get Pride Toronto to shut you down,” says Pride co-chair Fred Pitt. “It just crossed the line.”
The group was founded in 1973 by Rael, a French journalist, who claims to have met an extraterrestrial. They support the use of condoms, same-sex marriage, masturbation and cloning.
Smoking may have been banished from gay bars, but it was in full force in the Pride Toronto beer gardens this year.
Du Maurier was granted vendor licences to set up cigarette stands in Pride beer gardens. Cigarette girls circulated, selling their wares.
“They might have done better if they had cigarette boys,” quipped Pride co-chair Fred Pitt.
Pride beer gardens are all-ages spaces. As well, federal government regulations now prohibit tobacco companies from sponsoring arts and sports events, as a way to prevent tobacco companies from recruiting new smokers. Pitt says organizers thought long and hard about taking money from big tobacco.
“We’ve never had cigarette vendors before. We were betwixt about it,” says Pitt. “We’ve taken money from big liquor. We took this money because we were strapped for funding…. If we’re kept in this position where we don’t have long-term operating dollars, we’re going to have to look at [continuing] it.”
Pride vendors fees range from $900 to $2,000. Pitt says the Du Maurier deal was a special arrangement, but at press time didn’t have the price Du Maurier paid for its Pride presence.