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Berlin flying Pride Month flags again this year

Mayor Zack Tyndall confirmed this week that the town would again be flying the pride flag and issuing a proclamation in honor of Pride Month following comments on the topic at Monday’s council meeting.

Pride Day-Berlin-'23

Patty Gregorio, Lima the Bean, Councilman Jack Orris, Stephanie Fowler, Andrew Heller, Mayor Zack Tyndall, Councilman Steve Green, Ivy Wells, Ryan Nellans, and Allison Early celebrate the first Pride Day in Berlin in June of last year.
File photo

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

Berlin will once again celebrate June as Pride Month.

Mayor Zack Tyndall confirmed this week that the town would again be flying the pride flag and issuing a proclamation in honor of Pride Month. The news came after a trio of comments on the topic at Monday’s council meeting.

“I implore you to protect us and wave the pride flag proudly,” resident Betsy Love said. 

Last year Town Hall flew the pride flag and the progressive pride flag. The pride flag is the most well-known of the LGBT flags.  Its six colors are symbolic: red equals life, orange symbolizes healing, yellow stands for sunlight, green for nature, indigo for serenity and violet represents the spirit of the LGBTQ people. The progressive pride flag adds the transgender and people of color who are members of the LGBT community as well. 

At the close of Monday’s council meeting, Salt Water Media’s Patty Gregorio expressed concerns about comments that had been made during the town’s recent strategic planning input process, which was led by BEACON. One comment called Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies divisive while another expressed disappointment with the “current mayor and his DEI agenda, hanging pride flags and claiming there is violence toward that group, none of which I’ve ever seen or heard of.” Gregorio said she was the one who’d asked the mayor last year about putting the pride flag on town hall. She said the ensuing flag raising ceremony was heartwarming. She and her wife had funded the pride flags displayed on Town Hall.

“Honestly I was thrilled,” Gregorio said. “The proclamation has been displayed proudly in our office ever since.”

Gregorio said most people were supportive but there had been some negative comments on social media. She said that there were threats of violence, “on a daily basis.”

“I was verbally accosted in a public restroom … To submit that comment to BEACON is just ignorant,” Gregorio said. 

Stephanie Fowler, Gregorio’s wife, said she’d been thrilled when the town displayed the pride flag last year because it was celebratory.

“The pride flag is not just for us. It’s also for the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and teachers of people in the LGBTQ community because when they see it they know their loved one is welcomed and safe,” Fowler said.

She said she’d heard the concept of prohibiting special flags discussed in Berlin through unofficial channels. 

“Honestly I think such a policy would be too restrictive and quite frankly boring…,” she said, adding that could prohibit other flags like the POW flag. “To see the pride flag flown on town hall means that we are all represented in Berlin. That we are all welcome and accepted and safe and I believe that is a powerful and beautiful message to send to citizens and visitors alike.”

Tyndall said his office had entertained various flag and display requests in recent years. The town changed the color of certain lights for autism awareness and veteran service, and displayed the Stephen Decatur High School flag as well as the pride flag. He said typically if there was a monetary cost the person requesting the flag or display was asked to cover that. 

“There’s been no town outflow of funds to be able to do those things,” he said, adding that the requests were granted on a discretionary basis. “We do understand that what makes us all unique and what makes this such a great place to live … we’re all a little bit different. We all can still come together around certain fun things.”

Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols said she was sorry to see any ill will brought toward anyone in the community. Councilman Steve Green said there had been dozens of comments related to the strategic plan and that some “hit some of us the wrong way as well.” He referenced the recently approved strategic plan’s goal of creating “One Berlin.”

“They are comments and opinions nonetheless,” he said. “We are a community of differences. I’m glad ‘One Berlin’ is the mantra that has stuck.”

This story appears in the May 16, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.