The Lovettsville Town Council again came under fire from residents Thursday night after it refused to consider a ceremonial resolution recognizing June as Pride Month.
Councilwoman Renee Edmonston made a motion to add the proclamation to the meeting’s agenda, but not one other member of the council offered the support required to bring it to the floor for discussion.
After the council refused to adopt Pride Month resolution last year, resident Caitlin Keefe said she worked over the past several weeks to gain input from council members to craft a resolution that they would support. Only Edmonston and Tony Quintana were responsive, she said.
“I have never been so disappointed and so dismayed at my neighbors that represent this town. And need I remind you, you represent all of the town, not just the ones that are on your same level with your values or your beliefs. You represent everybody. I’m very disappointed. I’m horrified,” she said.
Other supporters of the resolution who gathered in the meeting room said the council’s inaction was an exhibit of bigotry and cowardice, and served only to further isolate members of the LBGTQ community who experience discrimination.
Sheryl Frye recalled the death by suicide of a town teen a few years ago. “It rocked many of us,” she said. “Aidan suffered here. He was bullied. He didn’t feel this town valued the LBGT community, and you proved him right again tonight.”
“A pride proclamation can be a small pebble, and its waves of hope to the LBGT youth in this community can be huge. I would love to see Lovettsville that is a place of love and acceptance for all the members of the community,” Frye said.
Shelly Thomlinson noted that Pride Month is recognized by the federal government and recalled conversations with council members a year ago after vandals targeted pride flags in town.
“I sat in the pavilion and Mayor Fontaine and several other town council members who were there. And I remember the conversation being, we don’t understand why we are not perceived as inclusive. … But this right here is why,” she said. “I’m sorry, but don’t ask us about being inclusive when you can’t even put it on the darn agenda. … I’m sorry, but you’re just sending a really awful message.”
Earlier in the meeting, the council adopted a resolution sought by the town’s American Legion Auxiliary Unit to recognize National Poppy Day, as part of Memorial Day activities. Replicas of the flowers had been passed out in the audience, but many came to the podium to give them back, some noting that those who died in miliary service also defended the rights of LBTGQ citizens and that some who served were gay.
Responding to the criticism at the close of Thursday’s meeting, council members offered little explanation of their refusal to second Edmonston’s motion. Several said they didn’t expect the issue to turn out that way.
“I will just say that it was a difficult day. It was challenging at every juncture. And I hope we can make amends somehow,” Quintana said.
Vice Mayor Christopher Hornbaker said the proclamation didn’t meet the council’s adopted standards in it was not linked to a local event or business, but said Lovettsville is a welcoming and cooperative community. “We support existing and welcoming new businesses organizations and residents into the community, treating our neighbors our neighbors with dignity and respect all of our neighbors’ dignity and respect and promoting volunteering, volunteerism, community service and cooperation,” he said.
Edmonston said she supported the declaration as part of her philosophy to defend liberty and personal sovereignty.
“Lovettsville is full of harmony. Conflict can and does exist in the smallest corners of most areas of society, but we must not let the conflict among so few issues distort the hope and peace that exists within the vast majority of mankind who choose to live their lives privately, respectfully, caringly and these hardworking contributors of our great society,” she said. “Respecting human dignity, striving for mutual respect and ensuring equal opportunity are nonpartisan values. There are goals we can and should all work towards together. To the LBGTQ+ community of Lovettsville, you are my neighbors, you are part of the Lovettsville community.”
Mayor Nate Fontaine, who does not have a vote on the council and was ineligible to second the motion, pointed out that the council could still adopt the resolution or another version one of its June meetings.
“The proclamation that came back in my opinion was not divisive, was not partisan and did not play politics. That proclamation was celebratory of giving recognition to a portion of our, of our populace here. I don’t understand why we could not even get a second to even have that discussion here this evening,” he said.
“Today’s proclamation was a small, powerful support for a portion of our community that happens to be recognized both federally at the state level and the local levels as well, right, so this is not a political argument. This is not a divisive argument. These are members of our community who live here. These are members who served in our military,” Fontaine said. “Our inability to recognize them surprises me.”