A one-man board of inquiry appointed under the New Brunswick Human Rights Act has ruled that Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside discriminated against gays and lesbians by refusing to proclaim a “gay pride weekend” in his city.

“It’s a question of balancing rights, but the balance has been found to clearly favour the (gay and lesbian) complainants,” said commissioner Brian Bruce, a law professor at the University of New Brunswick. Gays and lesbians “are simply seeking to exercise their right to be equal members of the community as they are entitled to do by law.”

Bruce harkened to similar decisions reached after the mayors of Hamilton and London, Ont. refused to issue gay pride proclamations in recent years. Both mayors were ordered by human rights commissions to make the proclamations, and were fined $5,000 and $10,000 respectively.

Woodside, who was not fined, said afterwards that he accepted the decision under protest. “I believe in free speech and I believe in the freedom to express yourself. I think it’s important as a politician that you just don’t do it unless you believe in it and therein lies the problem for me.”

Woodside said he had cheques from all over Canada and the U.S. sitting in his office, in the event he had been fined. He also had numerous calls of support from cities dealing with similar controversies, such as Edmonton and Winnipeg.

“Contrary to what was said in this (human rights) report – that gay pride is widely accepted in North America – that’s not the case,” said Woodside. “I wouldn’t consider Toronto and Vancouver to be the standard we all try to live by.”

He added that he’ll leave the actual wording of the proclamation to the human rights inquiry. He will take no part in drafting the announcement, and when he reads it, people will know it’s against his will and principles.

Meanwhile, in Regina, Sask., a long-simmering dispute over the declaration of a gay pride week may mean the end of civic proclamations in the city. Regina’s city council voted recently to consider ending the tradition of proclamations, rather than change a bylaw that blocks controversial declarations. The move followed a human rights complaint.