Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada, passed away this morning at his home in Toronto.
He was fighting cancer and had taken a leave of absence. Layton was a long-time advocate for the LGBT community. After serving as alderman on the Toronto City Council Ward 6, Layton became chair of Toronto’s Board of Health in 1985, raising awareness about the growing HIV/AIDS crisis.
During his time on the Board, Layton implemented public education programs, created a special team dedicated to AIDS prevention, and successfully campaigned for changes to a provincial law that banned anonymous HIV testing. The Toronto Pride Day Committee celebrated Layton as a community hero in 1996.
In 2003, Layton was elected leader of the federal NDP and adamantly supported marriage equality legislation, a goal he reportedly expressed on his own wedding day in 1988. Marriage equality became law in July 2005. He also called on the Canadian government to compensate those service members who were discharged from the military for their orientation prior to the repeal of that policy. In addition to LGBT advocacy, Layton worked to improve the environment, offer affordable housing, and eliminate homelessness.
Speaking about Layton’s life and legacy, NDP president Brian Topp said, “We are going to shed a few tears…and we are going to remember this man and his amazing contribution. Then we will do what he wanted us to do—which is carry on his work." GLAAD joins those mourning the loss of Jack Layton and appreciates his extraordinary work as an LGBT advocate and ally.