Drag queens and divas mingled and danced with dignitaries and politicians June 27 at Starry Night, the glitzy opening Green Space party at the 519 Church Street Community Centre.
But one politician's schmoozing upset some revellers. Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who last year voted against the Accepting Schools Act, spent a few hours at the event. When asked how he reconciles his — and his party’s — anti-gay voting record, Hudak replied, “I’m just here to have a good time . . . I just happen to be here tonight to celebrate. Great crowd, great evening.”
During the 2011 election, Hudak refused to apologize for campaign flyers that some called “disgusting” and “homophobic.” Several PC candidates distributed the pamphlets, which included out-of-context quotes from the Toronto District School Board’s guidebook on dealing with homophobia in the classroom.
The PC leader would not comment on his voting record. “You know what? I am trying to get Ontario back on track, creating some good jobs,” he said. “If we’re talking politics, a lot of people want to get involved in the PC Party and help us win the next election.”
Hudak also attended the Starry Night party last year, on the heels of his party’s attempt to prevent gay-straight alliances in Ontario Catholic schools. Hudak was absent from the legislature for the vote on Toby's Law.
Lawyer Brenda Cossman says she found Hudak's presence at the event last year to be “arrogant and offensive.” She says being an ally to the queer community does not mean attending a party once each year in an effort to court the “gay vote." Politicians should be supporting queer people — and voting in favour of human rights legislation — all year.
“There is a lot of room for politics at these events,” she says. “Last year it was very bold of him to be here. What has he done through the year to make things better? I told him last year that he needs to do a lot of work to mend relations with this community.”
Pride’s executive director, Kevin Beaulieu, agrees. He says everyone is welcome to come to Pride and learn about the queer community, but it’s particularly important that politicians support queer people through the year.
“Elected officials should be held to account for their voting record for their commitment to our communities and their support of our communities,” he says. “That’s an important part of what Pride is about. We’ve had many successes politically, but there is a lot more work to do, and we need that support.”
Meanwhile, outside in Cawthra Park, where hundreds danced to the music of DJ Lady Bunny, partygoers cheered as Premier Kathleen Wynne took to the stage to wish everyone a safe and fun-filled 2013 Pride. Wynne was joined by her partner, Jane, and MPP Glen Murray. “I came out at 37. I'm here because of you,” she said. “We are celebrating the right to love who we choose . . . And because I'm Premier Mom: be careful, and happy Pride!”