Prom feeding frenzy

Egos bruised in lobby for Durham teen


When Marc Hall was told that he couldn’t bring his boyfriend to his prom, he had no idea that he would set off a media and political firestorm that would turn him into a poster child for gay rights.

Politicos are stepping over each other to form a buffer around him that seems to grow bigger by the day.

And it all started with a simple website (www.geocities.com/right_and_freedoms) set up with his high school friends.

Then came a small story in his hometown paper, The Oshawa This Week, followed by the big Toronto dailies, The Globe And Mail, The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun.

Then came the TV camera crews.

“I was going to get my jacket at lunch one day when a bunch of my friends told me that I might not want to go outside unless I wanted, like, 80 cameras in my face,” says Hall, 17. He goes to Monsignor John Pereyman Catholic Secondary School in Oshawa.

“I was more shocked than anything – TV crews, reporters, everything in front of the school. It was crazy! I looked outside and there were news vans from CTV, Rogers, Global and a bunch of others,” says Hall.

CBC called that night for a live interview. So did Canada AM, PrideVision, CityTV and just about every major radio station around.

Hall, who was told by his principal that he cannot attend his Fri, May 10 prom with his 21-year-old boyfriend JP Dumond, received so many calls from the media that several third parties decided to step in. But instead of calming things down, the result turned a media sensation into a political one.

Toronto Centre-Rosedale MPP George Smitherman stepped in and helped organize the Coalition To Support Marc Hall, which includes the national lobby group Egale Canada, the support group Parents, Families And Friends Of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG), the 519 Church Street Community Centre, the Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario and Toronto City Councillors Kyle Rae and Olivia Chow. Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty wrote a letter to the Durham Catholic District School Board advocating for Hall.

Smitherman also talked to Mike Shield, president of Local 222 of the Canadian Auto Workers who has been a strong supporter of Hall – so much so he was asked by cops to leave a Durham Catholic District School meeting last week. Shield demanded Hall be able to speak at the meeting, but was told Hall hadn’t followed the procedure to get on the agenda.

Now the media is being asked to go through Lynn Brophy, the head of the CAW’s communications department, to get to Hall.

“My job is not in any way to restrict media access to Marc, my job is to coordinate this so that I can give Marc a call, maybe once a day or once every couple of days and say, ‘These are the following media requests, pick and choose what you want to do so you can manage your life,'” says Brophy.

 

Not everyone is completely happy with the new situation.

Mike Burley, head of public relations for Interlinks Youth Group, a Durham lesbian, gay, bi and trans group says that the Durham region is being ignored as Hall becomes a Toronto cause.

“I don’t appreciate that we’re trying to do things from here and we’re not getting the help. There are people in the community who want to speak to Marc, but they can’t,” says Burley. “There’s a major, major wall between the people who are able to take action here in Durham and those who are trying to drag Marc to Toronto.”

Burley also questions Smitherman’s motives.

“If [Smitherman] wasn’t gay – and no other MPP has come out to help Marc so I have no other basis for the fact that he’s doing this [except] because he’s gay and because part of his riding is part of Church St – if you help a homosexual and your riding is full of homosexuals, you’re going to get re-elected,” says Burley.

Smitherman says he’s doing what’s best for Hall.

“I was hesitant at first to take a leadership role on this issue because of those criticisms, but that’s to be expected,” he says. “The gay community has a long history of eating their own. We do it all the time and I’m not going to let that worry me.”

Smitherman says Hall was overwhelmed.

“He’s 17 and he’s got good marks and he wants to keep it that way. So all of these people that are now worried about their own access have a very small brain.”

Hall says that he is very grateful Smitherman stepped in.

“He’s making things a lot easier. He’s the one who got a hold of the CAW. And he always tells me that I don’t have to do anything that makes me uncomfortable. I’d probably be ripping my hair out if I hadn’t met George,” says Hall.

The board has shown no sign of lifting its ban on same-sex dates at the prom, citing Catholic opposition to homosexual activity.

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Politics, Power, Activism, Toronto, Canada, Ontario

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