TRAVERSE CITY — Clinch Park’s flagpole will sport a sign of Traverse City commissioners’ support for LGBTQ Pride Month, particularly their support for young people, and those of color.
City leaders also will try again on a request to fly the same flag at the Governmental Center after Grand Traverse County Administrator Nate Alger denied Mayor Jim Carruthers’ initial request over concerns that included county policy and future implications.
Carruthers requested both resolutions, which city commissioners unanimously adopted Monday. They did so during a nearly four-hour-long meeting filled with debates over everything from changing rules for sidewalk cafés in the downtown to adopting the city’s $105.8 million, July 2021-through-June 2022 budget.
Ongoing pandemic concerns prompted Up North Pride to push back its event to October, Carruthers said. So he wanted to mark the month that four presidents have also proclaimed as LGBTQ Pride Month, with flags flying at various other government buildings including U.S. embassies.
The month is timed to remember the Stonewall Uprising, Carruthers said — it broke out in June 1968 after a police raid on a bar in New York frequented by LGBTQ people, The Associated Press reported.
Spouses and Up North Pride co-founders Jonny and Elon Cameron both applauded the show of support from the city.
It’s particularly important to show love and acceptance in the face of dismal statistics, Jonny Cameron said, including 40 percent of transgender adults reporting a suicide attempt, and 92 percent of those prior to age 25.
“We know that being seen is important,” they said. “Complicit in this health epidemic is indifference and silence.”
City leaders backed the resolution, with Commissioner Ashlea Walter suggesting a tweak to show support for people of all ages and Carruthers insisting the language still specify youth given the struggles they face — LGBTQ teens are nearly five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, Jonny Cameron said.
City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht suggested the Clinch Park flagpole as a place on city property where commissioners could resolve to fly the flag. They agreed to fly what’s called the Progress Pride flag, which aims to highlight people of color within the LGBTQ community who can face extra discrimination.
Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe said she was glad to see the flag there but wanted to be sure Trible-Laucht worked with Grand Traverse County officials on getting it on the Governmental Center flagpole before June is over.
In his May 28 letter to Carruthers, Alger cited concerns from the county’s civil counsel over opening up the flagpole outside of the Governmental Center as a forum for speech. Opening that door could mean the county would have to approve public speech on the flagpole regardless of content.
“I do not feel it necessary to expound on the variety of messages which would then have to be displayed but I am sure you can imagine some of which you may not want displayed,” he said.
Trible-Laucht said she included language in the city’s resolution to make it clear that the flag is from the city government, and flying it doesn’t open up the flagpole to other requests.
Alger in the letter also pointed to policy requiring that a request to use county property come from a group, but was unsure whether the city or Carruthers alone was requesting to fly the flag.
The city’s resolution should clarify that, but Alger cited another county policy states nothing is to be “hung, tacked to, leaned against or in any fashion affixed to” the Governmental Center, including a flag from the flagpole.
Alger, reached Monday, said he wanted to review city commissioners’ actions before commenting on them.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for those in crisis or for people looking to help others. Call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to a certified listener.