Fifteen years ago, it might have been hard to believe that Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray would one day receive a round of applause from the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community.
But that’s exactly what happened at Saturday’s Pride Family Festival Day and Picnic at Mission Park.
Gray read the 2012 Pride Week proclamation and hailed organizers of the Okanagan Pride Coalition.
“I’m here today to congratulate the new breed of organizers for the Rainbow Coalition. They’re certainly committed to grow a broad-based annual community Pride Week event—you can tell they’re well on their way,” said Gray.
“I think this is just fantastic.”
In 2000, Gray was condemned by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for not including the word “pride” in a requested proclamation for Lesbian and Gay Pride Day during his first term as mayor in 1997.
In an interview earlier this week, Gray told Capital News the exclusion of the word was discriminatory and said society has “grown up” since then.
Wilbur Turner, co-chair of Pride Week, said he’s “very happy” the mayor opted to sign and read the Pride Week proclamation this year and added: “It sets a tone of equality and acceptance for the city.”
Turner was decked out in a black dress Saturday and appeared as his drag-queen alter-ego, Oddree Mayormaynot.
“As we created Okanagan Pride this year, the theme of celebrating diversity is what we came to as a way to celebrate who we are in the world,” Mayormaynot told the Pride Festival Day crowd.
“As gay people, as queer people and the whole gamut of LGBT, it’s not that we want to be special—we just want to be treated equal.
“We are boys and girls, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, sisters and brothers. We are all of the family that makes up this great planet.”
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison also spoke to the crowd Saturday.
The NDP politician, who is also the federal LGBT critic, is one of six openly gay Members of Parliament.
“It’s really important to have that presence, to show that we are part of Canada, we are part of the community and to demand that we be treated not with tolerance, but with acceptance and equal rights,” said Garrison.
Garrison added he’s currently working on a private member’s bill to provide equal rights for transgender Canadians.