POTSDAM — The small crowd gathered, including mothers, fathers, children, dogs, as a sign of support and inclusion, as the colors of the rainbow flag shone in the bright, Friday morning sun.
In recognition of June being LGBTQ Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, town councilwomen Rosemarie Rivezzi and Sarah L. Lister presented and raised the flag in front of Town Hall surrounded by members of the town board and community.
“50 years ago at the other end of this great big state, activists at the Stonewall Inn in NYC changed the course of the movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender folks in this country,” Ms. Lister read from a statement to the crowd. “I want to thank the activists in the LGBT community for the incredible work that they have done to make our society a less hateful, more loving place.”
She said pride is about authenticity, identity and love. Many of those present agreed with her as she said “I see this flag as message to lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer folks of Potsdam’s past, present, and future,
“To the past, I am so sorry that so many people we unable to safely live and love authentically,” Mrs. Lister said, as the wind whipped. “We will learn from the activists in the LGBT community, and we will keep fighting for justice. To the present and the future, this community welcomes you and embraces you — the real you. You are welcome here and we are proud to call you our neighbors.”
And as quickly as the flag was raised, it was then ordered to half staff by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in honor of Sgt. James G. Johnson, a Tompkins County resident who was killed in action Tuesday in Afghanistan.
“Tolerance, acceptance, compassion and kindness are the hallmarks of honorable people,” Town Supervisor Ann M. Carvill said. “The Potsdam Town Board is filled with such individuals. Our community is filled with such people. ... Thus, we stand up for the LGBTQ community.”
Mary Michalek said she was excited to be in a community that represents inclusion and human rights is something that is of great importance in her family.
“I strongly value human rights and every person’s right to just be themselves and in our family we respect the dignity of all people, so ... I’m really glad that Potsdam is doing something.’
But not everyone who showed up with their families supported the raising of the flag.
“Me and my family, we don’t support it,” village resident Jennifer Trelease said. “We want people to know that we feel that they should be pursuing the righteous way of living. We believe that the Bible speaks up against this sort of thing, but we did want to come out and have conversations with people and share with them about the love and grace that we found in Jesus.”
Susan Bailey said Mrs. Trelease had been “telling me about her alternative interpretation” of the flag raising prior to being approached by a Times reporter.
“So I’m here today because I wanted to support this event because I really want to live in an inclusive community and I want to raise my children in an inclusive community and I think this is really an important step forward to show that there’s public support for that diversity and inclusion and that makes me really happy.”