OPINION: The trouble with flags in Southington

However you feel about it, this is what happened: A little more than a week before the start of Southington Pride the Southington Town Council voted to restrict flags on municipal property, to those representing government, military and schools.

A year ago, the council had passed, unanimously, a resolution supporting the first Pride celebration in town. So, you might ask, what happened?

Some criticism, from those not on board with Pride acceptance, and time that some say is wasted on dealing with flag proposals. You let one group fly a flag at town hall and there’s no end to it.

“This is not about one group,” said Tom Lombardi, a town councilor whose Republican party held sway over the recent decision. “This is not about one organization, this is not about one country. But rather the way to put forward sound policy that keeps government focused and not infringe on people’s lives.”

OK. But you could have had it both ways. If wasted time was the issue there were ways to streamline things so the council would not have to spend so much time talking about flags. You could pass it on to other town officials to ease the burden, as has been suggested.

“We’re not listening,” said Jack Perry, a Democratic councilor who’d proposed flying the Ukrainian flag, and proposed adding the Pride flag to the ordinance so that it could be flown at town buildings. That proposal was rejected.

Others tried to inject some practicality into the reasoning. They included Democratic Town Councilor Val DePaolo, who didn’t think the town was going to be overwhelmed by flag proposals. “We’re not going to get 50 applications,” she said. “Common sense is going to prevail.”

Why all this fuss about flags?

It was obviously a big deal a year ago when the rainbow flag gained acceptance. Flags are symbols. In this case the rainbow flag represents diversity and inclusion, as DePaolo put it. “It’s just a symbol but it says a lot,” she said.

It can also, like a newspaper op-ed, spark conversation. The raising of the rainbow flag at the John Weichsel Municipal Center last year prompted a vigil and other expressions of opposition.

“Everybody is able to express their beliefs and their views, and that includes people who may be opposed,” said Mitchell Oliva, a Pride organizer, at the time. “That’s 100 percent. Everybody has the right to be able to express their beliefs.”

At the recent meeting, resident Walter Grover said Republicans are on “the wrong side of history” when it comes to the flag issue. As the Record-Journal’s Jesse Buchanan reported, Grover has worked with some of the Republican councilors on their campaigns. He referred to it as an “anti-pride flag ordinance.”

The action now takes the onus off the council. Councilors don’t have to worry about taking sides. They can just point to the rules. Council Chair Victoria Triano said the right symbol for a unified community is the American flag. “That flag is inclusive,” she said. “That flag represents diversity. The message of our flag is, ‘You’re home.’ We don’t need anything else, we have the American flag.”

Yes, we do. But let’s remember that the Pride flag was flying at the Weichsel center last year. Every year after is now a missed opportunity. Think of the message that could have been sent.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.



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