I’ve learned the good thing about summer is that things slow down a little. There’s nothing on the town schedule for today or tomorrow.
On Sunday, though, we will have our second annual Pride celebration, and so I thought I’d speak a little to the recent history of Pride in 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 the Burlington Equity Coalition, and is an opportunity for LGBTQ+ folks in Burlington to get together and be themselves in a display of the joy and diversity of the community.
It comes as we celebrate Pride Month, a time when rainbows pop up all over and Pride or Progress Pride flags are flown in many towns, as well as at homes and businesses - a visual signal that all community members are welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Learn more from Pride organizers Leo and Kerry here about why visibility is important and how it can also literally save lives.
Last year, the LGBTQ+ community group petitioned the Select Board to raise a Pride flag in the town of Burlington. Initially, 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 celebrate 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 somehow 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, other towns and cities in the area have managed to figure out a way to display Pride flags during Pride month and all year round.
This issue came back into our town’s collective consciousness (though likely it never left the minds of the members of our LGBTQ+ community) on June 2, 2022, 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. As you likely know, 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 Select Board meeting, the Chair of the Select Board, Nick Priest, said he has been working on the 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.
On Monday June 27, the day after our community gets together to spread the rainbow love on the common, the Select Board is expected to issue a proclamation for Pride Month - hopefully the sign of a commitment to be more proactive in supporting our LGBTQ+ community and all other marginalized communities in our town.
Community member Andrea Bono-Bunker expressed very succinctly the importance of visibility for the LGBTQ+ community when she spoke to the Select Board. “Whenever I see it 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.”
Here’s to everyone feeling welcome.
Enjoy your Friday, Burlington,
Thank you for writing this.
I second Barbara's sentiment. Is there an update to the current policy?