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A Brief Local History of Pride (Updated for 2023)
And, join the LGBTQ+ community today to celebrate!
**Updated June 10, 2023**
Today, June 10, 2023, marks the third annual Pride celebration in the Town of Burlington.
The Pride celebration is an event organized by volunteers from the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and including other ways people identify) Community and Allies of Burlington and members of the Burlington Equity Coalition, and it’s an opportunity for LGBTQ+ folks in Burlington to get together and be themselves in a display of the joy and diversity of the community. Burlington’s festival was co-founded by Leo and Kerry Abramov, and this year’s celebration is in memory of Leo, who passed away in March.
June is Pride Month, a time when rainbows pop up all over and various LGBTQ+ identity flags are flown in many towns, as well as at homes and businesses. These symbols serve as a visual signal that all community members are welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Learn more from Leo and Kerry in this 2022 BCAT interview about why visibility is important and how it can also literally save lives.
You will not, however, see a Pride flag flying on Burlington town property.
In 2021, the LGBTQ+ community group petitioned the Select Board to raise a Pride flag in the town of Burlington. The group was told the only official flag policy was the state policy about the flying of the US, state, and veterans’ flags. At that point, the organizers requested for a community flagpole to be installed, upon which flags to mark different events in the community (such as Black History Month, Pride, and others) could be flown.
At the Select Board meeting on June 30, 2021, the Select Board voted to not approve the installation of the community flag pole. One key influence for the unanimous rejection of the proposal was the presentation of two points by a resident who stated he was representing the town’s veteran community: First, that the addition of a community flagpole would threaten or demean the status of the American flag, and second, that the town could open itself to lawsuits if they allow one flag but not another. The City of Boston, indeed, just lost a case in the Supreme Court where they allowed one kind of flag to be flown but not another.
Of note, however, Boston lost the flag case because they didn’t have a clearly defined policy and process to choose which flags to allow and which to deny. Other towns and cities in the area have figured out a way to display a Pride flag, and it is unclear how its presence would demean Old Glory.
The issue of Pride displays came back into our town’s collective consciousness (though likely it never left the minds of the members of our LGBTQ+ community) last year, when the same community group decorated the Sculpture Park and the area of our Town Common around Havoc the dog for Pride, after thinking they obtained permission from the correct channels. The Progress Pride flag, which had been draped as a cape over Havoc, was folded into a bandana, and anything placed in the surrounding ground was moved over to the Sculpture Park proper.
After hearing from many community members at the June 13, 2022 Select Board meeting (yes, that is one year after the initial community flagpole conversation), the Chair of the Select Board, Nick Priest, said he has been working on a flag policy with town counsel, and that he hopes to revisit the issue of a community flag in the future—while also putting in place a policy with clear language that protects the town from lawsuits.
Another year has passed, and there has been no mention of a flag policy or a community flag at a Select Board meeting since.
The Select Board did, however, issue a proclamation on May 22, 2023, declaring June to be Pride Month in the Town of Burlington, and at the same time they issued a proclamation naming June 15 (which would have been Leo’s 37th birthday) Leo Day in our town.
Last June, Andrea Bono-Bunker was one of many members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies to address the Select Board. She conveyed in few words the importance of visibility for the LGBTQ+ community: “Whenever I see [the Pride flag] on a window in a store, whenever I see it in a community I visit … it tells me this community is accepting, this store is accepting, I am welcomed here.”
After yet another demonstration of joy and pride was disrupted, this time at our middle school, Andrea’s words echo back this year with even greater urgency. The Pride celebration is today from 11-2. Here’s to everyone feeling welcome.
Have a good day, Burlington.