In Ontario, Canada, there has been an ongoing struggle in state-funded Catholic schools to comply with a law there to allow gay-straight alliances (GSA) to form. This controversy added a new wrinkle to it recently when a Catholic school in a Toronto suburb refused to allow a student to use a quote from gay-rights leader Harvey Milk on a poster for the GSA.
Student Christopher Karras, who attends École Secondaire Catholique Sainte-Famille, part of the Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique Centre-Sud (Catholic Central South District School Board) in Mississauga, chose a quote from Milk to advertise the existence of the newly-formed student organization.
“The Milk quote — ‘All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential’ — has been deemed to be too controversial, according to an email Karas received from his vice-principal in October.“ ‘I was told that I can’t have a picture of Harvey Milk or his quote on the posters,’ Karas says. ‘I also had “sexual orientation” written on the posters.’“But Karas says vice-principal Vicki Marcotte told him to change that to ‘self-expression’ because ‘she felt it was too much about LGBT community and not inclusive of everyone.’ “
Harvey Milk was the first openly-gay man elected to public office in California when he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s. He was assassinated by Dan White, another member of the Board of Supervisors.
” . . . he says the school is trying to prevent it from becoming ‘too focused on queer stuff.’“Karas feels the board and school administrators are censoring and restricting the content of the group and making it difficult for the group to present itself as a GSA.“Davina Smith, another of the group’s founders, says the posters have caused unnecessary friction between the group and the school’s administration.“ ‘This gets on my nerves,’ she says, noting that the objection to the poster design gives the impression that the board is homophobic. ‘That’s the impression that I get . . . Harvey Milk is talking about giving youth hope. What’s wrong with that?’ “