The Toronto Catholic School District Board has turned down a proposal brought by two of its trustees to ban gay-straight alliances at the state-funded Catholic schools in that province.
The Toronto Star reports:
“Trustees voted 7 to 4 against a motion Thursday by trustee Garry Tanuan calling on the board to defy Ontario’s year-old Accepting Schools Act that says boards must let students set up gay-straight alliances (GSAs) if they wish. Tanuan’s motion, seconded by trustee John Del Grande, said gay-straight alliances ‘promote a positive view of homosexual activity, which undermines Catholic teaching on chastity and marriage.’ ”
But students involved in a gay-straight alliance at a Catholic school says that the two trustees’ notion about what the student clubs do is incorrect:
“ ‘Gay-straight alliances and Catholicism are not mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand … and provide a safe space for those who need support,’ said student Jersey David from the gay-straight alliance at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School. ‘Our discussions are about anti-bullying and inclusive language,’ and does not conflict with Catholic schools’ promotion of chastity, argued fellow student Erin Edgehill.
“Students from the gay-straight alliance club of Francis Liberman Catholic High School — which is called Bridges — noted they start each club meeting with a prayer and believe the Catholic faith extends to accepting those of different sexual identities.”
One of the trustees who voted to support the continuation of gay-straight alliances explained his position in terms of gospel inclusion:
‘Trustee Sal Piccininni said Catholic education must change with the times, and that he was always taught that ‘Jesus accepts everybody.’ He said he was proud of the students who defended GSAs at the meeting.”
The decisive defeat of the attempt to squash the GSAs is a victory for positive Catholic social teaching about non-discrimination. GSA’s not only help LGBT students feel safer, but they help other students get over their ignorance and fear about sexual minorities. Catholic institutions should follow the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s example by instituting programs to eliminate bullying and end homophobia in young people.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry