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Toronto Area PFLAG Erects Billboards, Mayor Refuses to Endorse
 
ONLINE:   WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 2, 11:58 AM EST (GMT-5).

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BILLBOARDS erected by PFLAG in the Toronto outer city of Markham have been refused endorsement by its mayor.

Several have been rented by that organization, at a cost of $3000 each, and will remain up for 4 weeks, the Toronto Star reported.  All cities in the Region of York (north of Toronto) have issued letters of support for PFLAG's public education efforts, and congratulations on their 3rd anniversary, except the city of Markham.

The billboards display messages such as "Someone You Know and Love is Gay." and "It's Not a Choice. It's OK to be Gay."  Apparently modeled after similar campaigns by PFLAG chapters in the US (see Archives), the messages were reportedly described by the mayor of Markham as being too provocative.

The billboards display messages such as "Someone You Know and Love is Gay." and "It's Not a Choice. It's OK to be Gay." 
 
 
"At first I wanted to be in support," Mayor Don Cousens told the Star, "but when I started getting calls and when I saw how big the signs were, I thought they were a little too much in your face - there is a shock value to it."

"I see it as a very strong way of trying to get the message across," he added, and stated that his office has received countless calls with both positive and negative comments on the billboards.

Cousens is a presbyterian minister and former Tory Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).  He reportedly spoke against the 1994 NDP bill for same-sex couples' equality.  The bill was defeated.

"Would he have had a problem if the signs had said 'What if someone you know and love has cancer?'" asked Richmond Hill councilor Janet Mabley.  "What does he mean by 'In your face?'  It's the standard size billboard.  If it had said 'Vote for Don Cousens,' would that have been in your face?"

After being accused of intolerance by MPP George Smitherman, Mr. Cousens defended himself by retorting:  "I don't accept that all.  I have become far more open and understanding of the gay community.  I know in my own mind, you could never say I am anti-gay."