When I started to put some words down in order the create Teaneck’s first proclamation naming June as Pride month, I knew that I wouldn’t win everyone over. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I could get it on the agenda.
Little did I know that what we tried to do as an act of inclusivity, caring and respect – would be portrayed in social media posts and beyond as “disheartening“, “shameful” and evidence that Teaneck is “no longer inclusive“.
These views weren’t from those against the proclamation — but the people that waited, some for decades, for those words to finally be uttered in our Town.
So, let’s talk a bit about what happened and what we want to accomplish — together.
About a week into June, with a few days left until our June meeting, I was forwarded an email from an activist calling on residents to come to our June meeting. She urged them to demand that we proclaim June as Pride month and raise a rainbow flag.
Councilmembers, like the public we represent, have beloved members of our family within the LGBTQ community; we didn’t need much convincing. We started out on getting this done. I started to put together a proclamation. I made sure council would do it. I had it added to our agenda.
I inquired about a flag raising.
We have never had anything but the American flag fly over our municipal green. Some people were unsure we should deviate from that position.
There were some issues that came to light, such as whether it was ok to put a flag over the war memorial, donated to the Township. What would we do when other requests for flags come our way? Where would we raise the flag if we chose to do so (e.g. Votee Park, library, municipal building, business districts)?
Council can’t decide these things outside of meetings. So, it was going to be at the meeting this Tuesday, where the discussion could first take place.
As I looked into what we’ve done in the past, I noted that a flag issue arose in 1964. The Knights of Columbus gave a flag (“One Nation Under God”) as a gift to council to fly under the American flag. Council said to hold off on flying it. Instead of deciding in the very same meeting, they would look into the issues around it and decide on another day, when they had an opportunity to discuss it and all the implications it may bring.
I’m all for flying the Pride flag.
I wish we could have been dealing with this in April or May instead of the topic first being raised a week into June — which it made this frenzied situation all but a certainty.
For those criticizing the decision, can we just pause a moment to take stock?
We currently have a sitting councilman with an LGBT daughter (who has been hanging a pride flag on his home all month) being called out as non-welcoming and worse.
Is this helpful? Can we do better?
I sure hope so.
As the mayor mentioned this week, we should have done this ahead of time. We should have thought of it in advance. I can’t do much about that now, other than make sure we don’t make the same mistake twice.
Let’s get it right and make this right going forward.
2019 is the first year anyone in Teaneck Government recognized the contributions of our LGBTQ+ community aloud at a meeting.
In the coming days, a committee of residents will be discussing where to put flags going forward.
Email me if you have an interest in joining the Pride committee to provide input.
Flags are important symbols. Let’s do it and let’s do it well.
Watch the Pride Proclamation being read below: