Home Business Wilmette stands firm in backing Progress Pride banners despite opposition from protestors at Human Relations Commission meeting

Wilmette stands firm in backing Progress Pride banners despite opposition from protestors at Human Relations Commission meeting

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Wilmette stands firm in backing Progress Pride banners despite opposition from protestors at Human Relations Commission meeting

Wilmette’s Human Rights Commission received an earful of anti-LGBTQ+ commentary from nearly a dozen residents opposing the Village’s plans to fly rainbow Progress Pride flags in June, which is nationally recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month.

While commissioners only spent a couple of minutes discussing Pride Month on March 19, members of the audience were able to make their request for the Village to not display the flag this 12 months, arguing quite a lot of reasons for his or her opposition.

The Human Rights Commission began discussions of this 12 months’s Pride Month efforts on Feb. 20. The Village of Wilmette has displayed Pride banners in June for 2 years, last 12 months installing them along Green Bay Road and within the Linden Square business district. Last 12 months, the Village also had Pride-focused information on the French Market and sponsored a movie on the Wilmette Theatre.

Assistant Village Manager Erik Hallgren said on the Feb. 20 meeting that the Village received “an abundance” of positive feedback about its 2023 efforts, but this 12 months, negative feedback has are available in surrounding the banners, which he added the Village has the “firm intention” of displaying this 12 months.

In a follow-up statement, Village President Senta Plunkett reiterated the Village’s commitment to its Pride program. She said the Progress Pride banners are a part of the Village’s “cultural heritage celebrations, which also includes initiatives recognizing Black, Hispanic, and other historically marginalized communities.

“We’ve heard from members of the community that the Village’s wide-ranging efforts to be welcoming and inclusive, including the display of Progress Pride banners, have helped them feel accepted in their very own community,” Plunkett said. “We look ahead to continuing to advertise an inclusive Wilmette, and the Progress Pride banners will again be displayed through the month of June, as they’ve been since 2022.”

Many opponents of the Village’s Pride support expressed intolerance for the transgender community. Katie Vale, who said she’s lived in Wilmette for greater than 40 years, was one among them, using the term “transgender ideology” to explain what she believes are practices that deceive individuals into becoming transgender.

In an indication the audience was on the identical page, the speakers’ comments at times led to applause, which Hallgren attempted to halt.

“There are potentially other individuals who have differing views from others here,” he said. “We would like to make sure that everybody feels comfortable to talk, so we don’t need to clap.”

Hallgren’s comment was met with audience members shouting, “So what?” and “It’s ridiculous.”

“It’s a standing rule of decorum that you simply don’t clap on behalf of other speakers,” Hallgren continued. “It’s a conversation between the board and the person speaking.”

Betsy Hart — who said she was speaking on behalf of the local conservative group Latest Trier Neighbors and acknowledged that many within the audience were members — asked the Human Rights Commission to fly religious freedom banners, a sample of which she showed and emailed Village officials, this summer. She stopped wanting asking the Village to exchange the Progress Pride flag but she referenced Pride in her comments and again in a follow-up email.

Latest Trier Neighbors has a history of chastising equity work from public agencies and posting anti-LGBTQ content on social media, frequently criticizing schools and public officials for showing support for the LGBTQ community. The group also attempted to get an LGBTQ book removed from Latest Trier High School in 2021 and railed against a “Rainbow Storytime” on the Wilmette Public Library in June 2023.

While there have been no speakers on March 19 who voiced support for Progress Pride flags, several residents emailed letters to the Human Rights Commission in the times and weeks following the meeting, expressing support for each the flags and for the Village’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Those letters were included within the packet for the HRC’s upcoming meeting on Tuesday, April 16.

The Rev. Jeff Lehn, senior pastor of Wilmette’s First Presbyterian Church, was one among the supporters of the banners.

“My faith informs my commitment to creating space for all God’s children to be who they’re — to be heard and welcomed and celebrated,” he wrote in his letter, which he sent to Hallgren and Village Manager Mike Braiman.

Lisa Keipert, a 17-year Wilmette resident, also emailed a letter of support to the Village.

“You might be walking the walk and showing through actions like endeavoring to rent a (diversity, equity, and inclusion) consultant and displaying pride flags, that Wilmette is a community striving to be welcoming and inclusive to ALL…not just a few,” she wrote. “It makes me proud to live in a village that displays compassion, decency, and courage in its convictions – even when faced with ignorance and hatred.”

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