Rob Ford's refusal to attend pride parade not homophobic, says brother Doug

TORONTO - Toronto's scandal-plagued mayor and his bombastic older brother are back in the spotlight after making controversial comments about the city's prominent gay pride festival.

Mayor Rob Ford has long been at loggerheads with Toronto's queer community for his long-standing refusal to take part in the gay pride parade that marches through the downtown core each summer.

Those tensions — which eased slightly after the mayor attended a flag-raising ceremony last summer — flared up again Thursday after both Fords made eyebrow-raising remarks about this year's World Pride parade.

Rob Ford got the ball rolling on Wednesday night at a debate for mayoral hopefuls running in October's municipal election. When asked if he would attend the parade, Ford was unequivocal in his response.

"I'm not going to go to the pride parade," he told the audience. "I've never been to a pride parade. So I'm not going to change the way I am."

In the past, Ford had said his refusal to attend the parade was due to a family tradition of spending the Canada Day long weekend at the cottage.

He has resolutely stayed away from the festival's headline event since taking office in 2011, though he did attend a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall to launch last year's festivities.

The mayor's remarks prompted criticism from fellow city councillors, who accused him of "thinly veiled homophobia."

In what has become a tradition in its own right, his brother stepped out to field the criticism and fanned the flames of controversy with remarks of his own.

Coun. Doug Ford denied that either he or his brother were homophobic, but then described the event as one characterized by "middle-aged men with pot bellies running down the street buck naked."

Ford went on to say that the event is one that some, including him, may feel uncomfortable participating in with their children.

Ford said both he and his brother had homosexual friends and said the festival had potential to bring in valuable tourism dollars, but went on to offer a personal criticism of the flagship parade.

"Do I condone men running down the middle of Yonge St. buck naked? Absolutely not. Maybe there are some people in this city that approve of that. Maybe they can bring their kids down to watch this."

Doug Ford said that his support for the event would be more enthusiastic if people would "clothe themselves."

Organizers of World Pride 2014 could not immediately be reached to react to the brother's comments, but did issue a sarcastic tweet in response to the mayor's debate remarks.

"We thank @TOMayorFord for his RSVP, and look forward to hosting another successful event in his absence," read a post from the event's official Twitter account.

World Pride 2014 is slated to take place between Jun. 20 and 29.