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The Globe and Mail

Halton Catholic board drops ban on gay group

Paul Marai, photographed in Toronto on Jan. 10, 2011, is a 22-year old gay Halton Catholic School Board Trustee who spoke to The Globe and Mail with his reactions to comments from Alice Ann Lemay, the school board chair, that compare gay/straoight alliance groups in high schools to Nazi groups.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Halton Catholic District School Board voted Tuesday night to overturn a ban on gay-straight alliances until a new policy can be crafted. The board's controversial decision earlier this month to exclude the groups from an inclusion policy drafted by the Ontario Ministry of Education earned them international notoriety.

The ministry's policy will be used in the interim.

The recommendation to end the ban passed in a 6 to 2 vote. It undid a decision made by the previous board of trustees in November shortly before their terms ended. As board chair, trustee Alice Anne LeMay, who was quoted in a national gay and lesbian newspaper listing gay-straight alliances alongside Nazi groups, was not required to vote.

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"The trustees of our board have decided to adopt the [ministry-drafted] Catholic template policy as an interim measure, because it better reflects the intent and objectives of the newly elected board," Ms. LeMay said in a statement released by the board. The board's draft of the inclusion policy that included the ban "was too restrictive and narrow in focus, and the board's decision to rescind the policy, which included a ban on gay-straight alliances, is based on this acknowledgment."

The ministry version of the policy was drafted with input from Catholic church leaders but Halton's board had taken it upon themselves to make further amendments. Their decision to outlaw gay-straight alliances divided the Catholic community and re-ignited criticism of publicly funded Catholic education.

The board recently elected its first openly gay trustee, 22-year-old Paul Marai. A conservative Christian website has labelled Mr. Marai a "homosexual activist" and accused him of hiding his sexuality during the campaign.

Mr. Marai has said he feels Halton is a welcoming and accepting community and that the ban damaged its reputation.

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