Glen Rock and Ridgewood to raise pride flags for LGBT Pride Month

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The colors of the rainbow Pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. The original flag first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

Glen Rock and Ridgewood will raise rainbow pride flags on June 1 in Wilde Memorial Park and Van Neste Park respectively in acknowledgement of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month after a small controversy in Ridgewood regarding the raising of the flag.

The rainbow pride flag, designed by artist Gilbert Baker in 1978, was originally devised to reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. The flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride and to advocate LGBT rights.

LGBT Pride Month is celebrated each June to honor LGBT history, specifically the 1969 Stonewall riots, which are considered a flash point for the Gay Liberation Movement. Members of the GSA will be walking to Memorial Park on June 1 for the Pride flag raising ceremony.

The idea to fly the flag throughout the month was brought forward to the Glen Rock town council by a committee of parents trying to raise awareness and acceptance in town. The town council voted unanimously to fly the flag and hold two ceremonies for the event, one on June 1 at noon and the second on June 3 at 6 p.m. for students who could not attend the first ceremony.

The idea to raise the pride flag was also brought to the Ridgewood town council several times by the Community Relations Advisory Board of Glen Rock and Ridgewood (CRAB). On the April 26 council meeting, public comments were made by several members of CRAB saying that council had ignored their request to get the issue on the agenda four times. Finally Mayor Susan Knudsen of Ridgewood said the vote would be on the agenda at the next meeting.

The Ridgewood village council during a council meeting on May 10, where the council decided to let the Pride flag fly over Van Neste Park.

Yet at the following meeting on May 3, the council did not vote on the issue as Mayor Knudsen had to cut the meeting short and leave for a family emergency. Before leaving, the mayor expressed her concerns that there might be legal trouble in flying the flag over town hall. At the same meeting, the Village Attorney Matthew Rogers said there was nothing prohibiting the village from flying the flag, but warned it could set a bad precedent, forcing the village to fly political flags of other types.

Glen Rock student Nick McCrae (‘18) is a member of CRAB and attended all of the meetings at which the board requested that the Pride flag issue be put on the agenda.

“Basically at that meeting, they went down the line and each councilperson gave their opinion, and all of them were either in favor, indifferent, or slightly against,” McCrae said.

I think maybe the situation around the flag in Ridgewood was that, sure, for some very conservative types, that flag is maybe political. But then, isn’t everything political at that point?”

— Troy Kroft, GSA co-adviser

Because the council had not taken a vote on the issue, many took it as a refusal to vote and  leaped at the opportunity to fight for the flag to go up.

An editorial was published on NorthJersey.com by the editorial page editor of The Record, Alfred P. Doblin. One of the main arguments for not raising the flag was that it would be inappropriate for the village to raise the flag over town hall as the flag may be overly political.

“The pride flag isn’t political. But the resistance feels political to me,” Doblin wrote. “Being gay is not a disease. Or a cause. Or a national heritage. It is being human.”

Troy Kroft, co-adviser of the Glen Rock Gay-Straight Alliance, made similar comments and stated that while he can see the point of the opposing view, being gay isn’t a political matter, it is simply being yourself.

“I think maybe the situation around the flag in Ridgewood was that, sure, for some very conservative types, that flag is maybe political. But then, isn’t everything political at that point?” Kroft said.

Ridgewood Mayor Susan Knudsen speaking at the May 10 council meeting.

Another major reason for the controversy was that, after the Orlando nightclub shooting last June, Ridgewood flew the Pride flag without even holding a vote on it. The flag flew in solidarity the victims of the shooting and to support struggling members of the LGBT community.

Nicole Rusin, co-adviser of the Glen Rock GSA, commented that flying the flag after the shooting set a precedent for the town that led to confusion in the community.

“I think that they set a precedent at that time, and I think that that precedent maybe put them into a gray area that they didn’t want to be in,” Rusin said.

Additionally, the fact that Glen Rock had unanimously voted for the flag to fly put pressure on the neighboring village to show their support for equality with the Pride flag.

I think that the village has set a very dangerous precedent by refusing to fly the flag above village hall. You have made a statement that the village feels that the flag is political.”

— Eliza Armstrong, Ridgewood citizen

“I think that Glen Rock really showed them up in a lot of ways and said, okay, look at what we did, and then Ridgewood had to follow,” Rusin said.

After much criticism online, the council added the Pride flag issue to the agenda for the May 10 meeting in the form of a vote. The issue was moved from the bottom of the agenda to the top, and was unanimously passed by the council members without public comments.

“I wrote something that I was going to go to the meeting and speak with. I prepared like a long list of bullet points that I didn’t get to use,” McCrae said. Despite not speaking during public comments, McCrae was satisfied that the flag would be flown.

The council did, however, vote that the Pride flag would be raised in Van Neste Park rather than over town hall.

Ridgewood citizen Eliza Armstrong speaking during the public comments section at the May 10 village council meeting. “I think it’s wonderful to hang it above Village Square. My concern is that it’s ended up in Village Square because of our unwillingness to hang it above village hall,” Armstrong said.

At the end of the meeting, citizens were free to come up to the podium and voice their concerns. Many were upset that the decision to raise the flag was made without discussion. Eliza Armstrong, Ridgewood resident, voiced her concerns during this period about the message the village is sending about the flag.

“I think that the village has set a very dangerous precedent by refusing to fly the flag above village hall. You have made a statement that the village feels that the flag is political,” Armstrong said.

Ridgewood GSA leader Charlotte Simpson was disappointed but is hopeful that the flag will fly over town hall next June.

“I am very grateful that we still have a central flag being hung in town,” Simpson said.

“Although the flag is being hung, the conversation about accepting the LGBT+ community should still go on,” Simpson said. “Seeing how many people moved so fast to make a change was amazing, and I hope that some of that fire still exists in our citizens to take the fight outside of just Ridgewood.”

The Village of Ridgewood