In two separate stories, Catholics in Ontario, Canada, are speaking out for the adoption of gay-straight alliances (GSA) in the province’s schools. Ontario’s legislature is currently debating Bill 13, a bill which, among other things, is designed to deter bullying and calls school boards to “support pupils who want to establish and lead (…) activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.”
In one story, a Catholic school board trustee in Waterloo, Ontario, is calling on on the Catholic board to allow gay-straight alliances. In the other story, a group of Ontario Catholics has mounted a petition at Change.org to support Bill 13.
An article on Xtra.ca, a Canadian LGBT news source, notes that Bill 13 is being hotly debated by legislative representatives, and that part of the controversy revolves around whether to call the student groups “gay-straight alliances” (GSA) or to refer to them by other names. Officials from state-funded Catholic schools oppose calling them “GSAs.”
Yet Anthony Piscitelli, Catholic school board trustee in Waterloo, Ontario, has stepped forward in support of establishing GSAs in Catholic schools. The Record, a newspaper in the Kitchener/Waterloo region reports:
“Catholic schools need to go further in making gay and lesbian students feel welcome in their schools, says a Catholic school trustee.
“Anthony Piscitelli wants the board to allow for gay-straight alliance groups in Catholic schools and he’s hoping his fellow trustees will back him up.
“So far, trustee Janek Jagiellowicz says he supports the idea but he’s been asked by the board chairperson to not speak about it publicly until if comes before trustees Monday night.
“Piscitelli said it’s morally right to support his motion. ‘If you look at how we can best support the students in the system, it’s very hard to vote against GSAs in schools,’ he said.
“ ‘Focusing on doing what’s best for the kids, this is morally right,’ said Piscitelli. ‘It’s what our faith calls us to do.’ ”
Piscitelli and Jagiellowicz are not the only Catholics who support the measure. A group of Catholics in Ontario have launched a Change.org petition in favor of Bill 13. The petition, which can be accessed by clicking here, explains that this campaign began when a young Catholic who identifies as an LGBT person was stunned to learn that her local parish was collecting signatures against the measure. The petition states:
“We started this petition in support of Bill 13 to show the student and other LGBT youth that we (who are also Catholics) recognize their right to be respected and accepted as they are. We also believe that avoiding the word “gay” in schools provides the youth with a harmful message: message of shame and non-acceptance.”
An article in Canada’s National Post notes that while Catholic officials oppose Bill 13, the proposed law has been endorsed by Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association.
Previous Bondings 2.0 posts about Catholic involvement in the GSA controversy can be found by clicking “Canada” in the “Categories” section of the column to the right →.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry