The mayor of Woolwich, Ont., has issued an apology after a town councillor went on a homophobic rant about rainbows during a council meeting on Monday night.
The incident began after a letter from the CMHA Waterloo Wellington was introduced which asked council to consider having a rainbow crosswalk in the community.
Coun. Murray Martin then went off on a one-minute rant about the idea, during which Mayor Sandy Shantz briefly attempted to interject but ultimately allowed him to continue.
“In keeping with the values of this community, they can send this letter right back to where it came from,” Martin began.
He then continued by noting that he respected and loved all people before saying, “and it’s not about the lifestyle. It’s about using the rainbow itself. Where did the first rainbow come from? Everybody should know.”
“It came after the big flood on the Ark. God made a covenant with his people that he would not destroy the world again with the flood any given the rainbow.
“So now we use that and we trash it to promote a lifestyle.”
Several councillors immediately objected to Martin’s comments.
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“With all due respect, the council can’t allow statements to stand where we’re calling people improper for who they are. It’s not a lifestyle, It’s who they are,” Coun. Scott McMillian followed.
Councillors Fred Redikop and Patrick Merlihan were quick to follow with disapproval of Martin’s words while Coun. Larry Shantz remained silent.
“I’m not shocked that those statements were made, but that was really offensive to me and to many of my friends that identify in different ways,” Merlihan said.
He went on to suggest that the township should consider ways to use rainbows in all of its other urban centres and not just in Elmira.
All of the councillors aside from Larry Shantz are seeking election this fall, with Merlihan challenging Sandy Shantz in the mayor’s race.
On Tuesday, Shantz issued a statement in which she apologized for not cutting Martin off at the pass.
“Upon reflection I apologize and regret not stopping the comments from Councillor Martin pertaining to the rainbow crosswalk,” Shantz wrote.
“Woolwich prides itself on being a forward-thinking inclusive Township who invites and welcomes residents including those from the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”
Shantz said there has been some blowback from the community but that she has been in contact with some who were upset by the homophobic comments.
“I have listened to the comments received from the community and I have taken time to speak and apologize to those who have been harmed by these comments. Again, I apologize and regret my actions from last night and want to reassure our community that we are a safe, diverse, inclusive, accepting and welcoming community.”