Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton died this morning at his home in Toronto.
"We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45am today, Monday, Aug 22," reads a statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and his children, Sarah and Michael Layton. "He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones. Details of Mr Layton’s funeral arrangements will be forthcoming."
Layton spoke with Xtra editor Robin Perelle in 2006. Read the interview here.
A brief timeline of Layton’s contributions to the fight for gay and lesbian rights:
Nov 8, 1982 – Jack Layton is elected alderman of Toronto City Council Ward 6, with strong support from the gay and lesbian community.
1985-1991 – Layton serves as chair of Toronto’s Board of Health, overseeing the city’s response to the growing AIDS crisis, including safer-sex education and distribution of condoms. Layton told Xtra in 2006:
“We had calls at the time for closing the bathhouses and talking about abstinence and absolutely not handing out condoms. So we went on a very active campaign specifically to hand out condoms and to make sure that public education was going on in the bathhouses.”
May 1987 – Layton calls for the city to spend $2.1 million on a special AIDS defence team. It is the first time any such plan has been proposed by a city. At the time, there were at least 232 people who had contracted AIDS in Toronto.
July 9, 1988 – At his wedding to Olivia Chow, Layton reportedly expresses his desire to see the day when his gay and lesbian friends can marry under the law. Seventeen years later, he would cast one of the crucial votes for marriage equality in Parliament.
1989 – Layton assists the Hassle Free Clinic in presenting motions to the Board of Health and Toronto City Council supporting anonymous testing. At the time, provincial law banned anonymous testing and required positive HIV test results to be reported to the Ministry of Health. Both council and the board called on the province to change the law. The law was eventually changed in 1991 after a change in government.
July 5-16, 1990 – Layton plays a crucial role in brokering peace between the city and gay bathhouse operators.
The city was cracking down on bathhouses and denying new licences to operators. When Peter Bochove tried to open what would eventually become Steamworks, his permit application was denied and he was forced to go to the courts, which ruled in his favour. The city continued to refuse his permit application, forcing Bochove to seek a contempt of court ruling, which could have put the city on the hook for more than $1 million in damages. Layton got council to approve Bochove’s permit in exchange for his abandoning the damages. The council decision set a precedent of legislative approval for bathhouses in the city, protecting bathhouses from future city harassment.
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