Canton trustees, council declare June as 'Pride Month,' plan rainbow flag raising in front of the municipal building
Monday, June 10, 2019 - 11:36 pm

By ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week

CANTON — The town and village boards unanimously passed a resolution declaring June as "Pride Month." The measure also calls for a rainbow flag raising in front of the municipal building for June 28 in support of LGBTQ causes.

The boards met Monday, June 10 in a joint session and the resolution was proposed then by village trustee Sean O’Brien.

O’Brien said the resolution and flag raising were to commemorate the June 28, 1969 Stonewall Uprising’s 50th anniversary, which some LGBTQ activists point to as the start of the gay rights movement.

The trustees and council members voiced support for the measure and discussed one possible concern regarding the flag raising itself.

“I fully support this and it’s on a personal level,” said Town Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley, “I’ve experienced the hate, I have seen the hate. And its not good. Things were getting better and now we’ve backtracked. And I take this very personally so I fully support it because people are still being harassed, assaulted and even murdered.”

“At a time when we in this community are trying to demonstrate that we are a welcoming place for people to be, a place that offers diversity . . . I think it would be such a wonderful symbol and I believe you will have a lot of people standing shoulder to shoulder with us when we raise the flag,” said Village Trustee and Deputy Mayor Carol Pynchon.

Pynchon said that the first few years there were LGBTQ marchers in the Dairy Parade there were negative reactions. “And now its very positive, a lot of smiles a lot of cheers and I believe people are looking for leadership on this too.”

Town Councilman Bob Washo called the resolution a “no brainer” and Village Trustee Klaus Proemm agreed.

“I support the resolution,” said Town Councilman Jimmy Smith. “The only question I have is with regard to putting the flag . . . on the flagpole in front of the municipal building. If we do that are we opening the door to raising flags for something that we may not agree with?”

“The proclamation, I have no problem with it, the whole thing. I’m just wondering if by raising the flag in front of a political building, the municipal building, do we open the door up for some issues that may get uncomfortable for us down the road? Be it whoever it is?” Smith said, adding that it could be a religious cause or some other organization.

“As an intellectual exercise lets say the Jerk Society of Canton wants us to fly their flag,” O’Brien said. “Well they have to get all of us together to agree to fly the Jerk Flag, to pass a resolution.”

“But why are we, why are we not allowing the Jerk Flag to fly?” Smith said.

“Because they’re jerks,” O’Brien said.

“So, whatever other wording you want to use, so 10 political people get to decide whose flag gets to fly,” Smith said.

“I hear you and I respect that, and I think that’s a very thoughtful response, but what I would say to that is we are 10 people and we represent this community, and what I would say is the LGBTQ community is very much a part of our community, and very many of the people we would represent,” Pynchon said.

Pynchon said if another group came in with a request to fly their flag from the municipal flagpole the trustees and council would have to ask if the group was part of a sentiment, population or movement that is part of the community, and the boards would have to decide. Pynchon said because the trustees and council was elected by the community that its their job to decide.

Washo said that there are currently statehouses around the country that are flying the rainbow flag and others that are not. “I would agree that we have a choice to fly a flag or which flag to fly,” Washo said. “And I would be supportive of flying any flag that I felt akin to and I would say no to any that I didn’t.”

O’Brien said any group could ask the board to pass a resolution to fly their flag. He said it was his understanding that there was no blanket prohibition on flying a flag on the municipal flag pole if the board agreed. He asked Village Attorney Gerald Ducharme for clarification.

“I think the concern is whether you allow someone . . . to have use of a public space, that you have to allow someone else,” said Village Attorney Gerald Ducharme. I think the resolution shows support for a part of the community . . . to show support for part of the overall population, which is something that is happening across the country right now. I don’t see you opening yourselves up with having to agree to fly a banner or flag that speaks an idea . . . that you don’t feel is appropriate.”

“By making a statement in support of the gay community, you don’t have to make a similar statement in support of some other thought,” said Ducharme.