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Letters of Pride: Rye Coalition For Change

MyRye.com is publishing a series of letters of support for raising the Pride flag on City flagpoles. The letters were sent to the City ahead of the City Council voting to fly the flag, and are a matter of public record.

PRIDE flag

From: Rye Coalition For Change

Subject: Support for the Pride Flag

Date: May 1, 2021 at 6:45:13 PM EDT

To: <jcohn@ryeny.gov>, <sgoddard@ryeny.gov>, <cjohnson@ryeny.gov>, <rmecca@ryeny.gov>, <bstacks@ryeny.gov>, <jsouza@ryeny.gov>, <ptarlow@ryeny.gov>

Dear Rye City Councilmembers and the Rye Community,

The Rye Coalition for Change consists of members from the Rye community who want to hold Rye to the highest ethical standards and educate the community about diversity, inclusion, equity, and more. To that end, we strongly support the raising of the Pride flag on a municipal pole.

We were thoroughly impressed by the courageous voices of a number of members from the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) student organization. Speaking at the City Council meeting took an immense amount of bravery. Parents and allies joined in to express their support and demand that the Pride flag be raised this June. In fact, no one publicly expressed concern or disapproval about raising the Pride flag.

We are disappointed with the overall tone of the Rye City Council meeting that took place on Wednesday, April 21st. The language, behaviors, and expressions of certain councilmembers were disconcerting. We are troubled by specific responses, such as Councilmember Julie Souza telling the youth members who spoke that they are “misinformed,” “conflating things,” and “not listening.” In addition, the Mayor and the majority of the City Council kept using the term “others,” such as “other groups” and “other flags.” By othering the LGBTQ+ community, you are drawing a line between the general population and the Rye citizens who identify as LGBTQ+. It was very uncomfortable to witness adults respond to youth who identify as LGBTQ+ in this manner.

Rather, the Rye City Council could have validated the lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ youth in our town through empathic responding. Recognizing June as Pride Month last year was a positive beginning, but only a beginning. We are disappointed in the lack of action towards continuing to create an inclusive community in Rye.

Our representatives from the federal level to the state level to the county level (e.g., U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman, State Senator Shelley Mayer, and Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker), support the raising of the pride flag in Rye, to continue the support of the LGBTQ+ community. Rye’s neighbors, such as New Rochelle and Yonkers, have proudly flown flags on municipal poles for years. The Boston case example (Shurtleff v. City of Boston 2021) cited by Mayor Josh Cohn and other councilmembers to defend their hesitation is an unfair comparison. The case is based on religious discrimination (the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment); it is not based on the Pride flag. Boston has flown over 280 different flags in the last 15 years. The U.S. Circuit Judge Bruce Selya explained that Boston is “entitled to select the views that it wants to express.” Therefore, this action does not require $10,000 in legal analysis or guidance. The City Council can choose to express its unified view and vote for the symbolic representation of inclusivity, acceptance, and equality without the fear of lawsuits from groups with opposing views.

Since members of the LGBTQ+ community are sharing with the City Council that they feel unwelcome in this community, we encourage the City Council to reflect on their behavior and actions as community leaders. The ambivalence to raise the pride flag demonstrates to the LGBTQ+ community that the City Council does not proudly embrace this population. We ask you to consider intent versus impact insofar as the Council’s impact being harmful to an already vulnerable community.

We are calling on all City Councilmembers (except Councilmember Sara Goddard and Councilmember Pamela Tarlow), the Mayor Josh Cohn, and City Attorney, Kristen Wilson, to formally and publicly 1) acknowledge the meeting’s harmful impact on the students who spoke at the meeting and 2) apologize for a less than welcoming tone communicated to the general Rye community during this meeting. In addition, we ask for increased transparency in communications within the City Council as well as between the City Council and the Rye community.

Again, we want to recognize the bravery of the students that spoke during the meeting. We stand with you and support you. We want to thank Councilmember Sara Goddard for all of her efforts and together with Councilmember Pamela Tarlow for voting to raise the Pride flag this June without requiring further legal analysis. We hope to see Rye proudly and prominently raise the Pride flag on a municipal pole this June.

Sincerely,

The Rye Coalition for Change

1 COMMENT

  1. Regarding the request from the “Rye Coalition for Change” for “increased transparency in communications”, perhaps they might start the transparency ball rolling by letting the world know who comprises the “Rye Coalition for Change”. How many parties are in the “coalition,” who are the persons in the “coalition”… transparent stuff like that.

    If straightforward comments by councilmembers during a public meeting were “harmful” to the students who attended the meeting, perhaps it would be good to know — in the spirit of transparency — just what harm it was that they suffered, beyond not getting what they wanted.

    It might be illuminating, too, — in the spirit of transparency — to know who are the adult advisors to the students. One would think that by the time a student enters high school that infantile sensitivities would be things of the past. Certainly, any adult advisors who cannot or will not help adolescents transition from children into emotionally strong adults are people whom the students’ parents should know by name.

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