School board votes to reverse ban on gay alliance clubs

A gay former high school student of the Halton Catholic District School Board calls it a win after the board of trustees voted to reverse a ban on gay alliance clubs in its schools.

James Hopkins, 19, had been working to convince trustees to lift the ban since its inception. In November, the previous board of trustees voted to ban gay-straight alliance groups throughout its district. On Tuesday night, the newly elected board voted six to two in favour of reversing the policy.

“It was a first victory,” Hopkins said. “And obviously more to come.”

The vote to overrule the ban leaves the issue with no definitive resolution, and Hopkins says there is still a long way to go to create a new policy.

“It was a big step in the right direction,” he said. “Our next step is to make a formal request to the board to be a part of the policy making process.”

Hopkins says he was surprised when he heard of the ban in November, calling it “absolutely ridiculous.”

While his peers tormented him when he was younger, he says, the faculty and staff at his school, Bishop Reding Catholic High School, were always supportive toward his sexual orientation. Two years after his graduation, he still feels an obligation to stand up for students who are affected by the ruling.

“They need a voice,” he said. “I owed it to the school board for treating me so nicely.”

Hopkins, along with many others who are looking to change the ruling, has faced some opposition.

In an interview with Xtra magazine, Alice Anne Lemay, the chair of the board, said that gay alliance groups, like “Nazi groups” wouldn’t “fall within the teachings of the Catholic church.” She apologized last Tuesday through the National Post saying she regretted the words she used and how they were interpreted.

Paul Marai, an Oakville trustee who voted to lift the ban, says he was surprised by Lemay’s comments.

“I know her to be quite a tolerant and understanding person,” he said. “I would never compare the group.”

Until the board decides on a new ruling, they will allow students to form gay alliance groups.

Hopkins said he will begin attending board meetings to see that trustees don’t “undermine” students’ rights.

“If they want to hold on to any credibility, they should just abide by the general population rather than the Catholic church,” he said.