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Participants hold a giant pride flag as they take part in the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto, July, 3, 2011. (Mark Blinch/Reuters/Mark Blinch/Reuters)
Participants hold a giant pride flag as they take part in the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto, July, 3, 2011. (Mark Blinch/Reuters/Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Ford won't attend gay outreach event at City Hall Add to ...

Mayor Rob Ford is passing up another opportunity to support the gay and lesbian community, this time opting to skip a flag-raising outside his office that will be attended by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.

The Toronto chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays has confirmed that Mr. Ford turned down its invitation to a flag-raising to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Nathan Phillips Square on May 17.

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The event was considered among the likeliest to draw the reluctant mayor – it’s low-key, conveniently located and not part of the formal Pride Week celebrations.

Irene Miller, the president of Toronto PFLAG, began sending the mayor’s office invitations in February.

In a letter she called warm and gracious, the mayor’s office replied in late April that Mr. Ford couldn’t fit the event into his schedule.

“We will continue to keep that door open in the hopes that … the mayor will one day come with us,” Ms. Miller said.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose ward includes the Gay Village, described the May 17 event as “gentle” and “welcoming.” Among the confirmed guests is Mr. Burke, whose late son was gay.

“It would have been wonderful to see the mayor there,” she said. “In many ways, it might have taken the question away about whether or not he supports the LGBT community.”

The mayor will sign the proclamation – as he does for every official day or week the city proclaims through its protocol office – but Councillor Gord Perks will read it in his stead.

Mr. Ford said last month that he won’t attend the Pride Parade again this year. He plans instead to keep his family’s tradition of going to the cottage for the Canada Day long weekend.

He left the door open to attending other events celebrating the gay and lesbian community. He said the same thing last year but, in the end, he didn’t attend any Pride festivities.

The mayor’s office could not say where the mayor will be on May 17, despite repeated requests from The Globe and Mail Monday.

The mayor himself walked away from reporters without answering questions after reading a proclamation marking World Press Freedom Day at a reception honouring Toronto’s ethnic press.

The news that Mr. Ford had turned down another invitation from supporters of the gay community came a day after the mayor and his councillor brother sat silent while a guest on their weekly radio show disparaged George Smitherman, Mr. Ford’s mayoral rival and a married gay father.

In a segment about Mr. Ford’s continuing feud with the Toronto Star, Sun News Network host David Menzies referenced a question Mr. Ford fielded during the 2010 campaign from a doctor concerned about Mr. Ford’s weight and health.

“Could you imagine if I was at that all-candidates meeting and I went to George Smitherman and I said, ‘You know what? You know, George, being a practising homosexual and being … involved with all kinds of illicit drug use, how do we know you won’t engage in high-risk sex and drug use that will bring about HIV leading to AIDS and you’ll die in office?’ ” Mr. Menzies said. “I would be run out of town on a rail, right?”

When Mr. Menzies finished, Doug Ford changed the subject. On Monday, the councillor said he didn’t support Mr. Menzies’s comments.

“He’s a guest. That’s up to him to make those comments. I know Rob and I, we wouldn’t have made those comments,” the councillor told reporters.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Mr. Menzies’s statements.

Pride Toronto condemned the episode in a statement Monday.

“After good-faith efforts to acquaint the Fords with our communities, Pride Toronto is disappointed that these homophobic comments were aired unchallenged. These comments demonstrate the continued need for Pride as a celebration of our communities and cultures, and a space for proud expression of who we are.”

Follow on Twitter: @kellygrant1

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