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It’s been called a kind of civil war in the Toronto gay and lesbian community. It comes out of a decision by Pride Toronto, organizer of the annual pride parade, to ban the words “Israeli apartheid” from the parade on July 4. The target is a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which marched in last year’s parade chanting noisy and, some say, hateful slogans against Israeli policy.

QuAIA calls that censorship. On Monday, to back up its case, it held a news conference to introduce 21 prominent men and women who are returning various awards and honours to Pride Toronto in protest. James Loney, a peace activist kidnapped in Iraq in 2006, said that for homosexuals, “silence equals death.” He called on Pride to be “fearless in standing up for the right of every human being to be seen and heard — especially those whose voices, like the people of Palestine today, are being silenced.”

Sky Gilbert, a former parade grand marshal, said the decision is “the final nail in the anti-sex coffin, sounding the death knell for those who celebrate our bodies in all their splendid difference and exuberance.”

John Greyson vowed to wear a skirt in the parade with the words Queers Against Israeli Apartheid written in its pleats. He held up a Barbie-sized male doll wearing such a skirt.

Every speech was greeted with cheers and hollers from the crowd, which marched on Pride headquarters afterward to present a Shame Award to the parade organizers. It remains to be seen what happens when QuAIA shows up for the parade despite the ban.

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