EDITORIAL: Pride, not prejudice

As Pride Month draws to a close, we have much to celebrate, but we also recognize the need to avoid complacency. Early this month, ’Headers came together at Abbot Hall to welcome in the month with speeches, comradery and the now annual raising of the pride flag.

As we previously reported, one of the featured speakers recounted her need to flee Marblehead decades ago as an openly gay and young adult who was finding herself shamed and ridiculed in public, only to return 39 years later to find her hometown had become a welcoming community where she can find happiness.

And our police chief reaffirmed his department’s commitment to protecting LGBTQ+ individuals who live, work and visit Marblehead. There was the reading by a Select Board member of a proclamation that committed Marblehead to fostering acceptance, preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and celebrating the town’s LGBTQ+ community, two Village Street Middle School students read poems, and the high school’s a cappella group sang a song — all to much applause and cheers.

Applause and cheers are, indeed, warranted. LGBTQ+ individuals can now walk the streets of Marblehead with their heads held high, not needing to live a secret life of lies to avoid confrontation by fellow citizens who lack the willingness and ability to understand that being different from themselves is normal, not something to fear.

But let us not allow ourselves to think that there is no cause for concern. Earlier this month and down the road apiece, in the town of Burlington, a group of middle school students tore down gay pride decorations and shouted that their pronouns are “U.S.A.” And across our nation there are many citizens committed to attacking the LGBTQ+ community and all aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Here in Marblehead, we are confronting the recent controversy between the openly gay owner of a preschool program and the elders of the Grace Church, where his business had been located, all as the result of his placing pride flags in window boxes and having them then removed by members of the church, resulting in a silent protest across the street from the church on the following Sunday.

And earlier this month, Veterans Middle School parents were notified by its principal of a personal attack on one of his teachers who was named and tagged in an anonymous post on a local social media page over a lesson on sexuality identity.

We endorse the heartfelt words spoken by School Superintendent Buckey at the June 3 celebration at Abbot Hall: “The work of diversity, equity and inclusion is a process. It’s not a single event. We applaud the progress we’ve made, reflect on the challenges that remain and recommit to the difficult work required to achieve our shared goals.”

And so, while there is much reason to celebrate how far we have come, not only in Marblehead, but across the state and much of our nation, we must not take for granted these strides. Rather we must remain vigilant to ensure that gains made are not allowed to be swept away.

Our Marblehead LGBTQ+ community deserves nothing less.

The Current Editorial Board

The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney, former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee and a former Select Board member. Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.

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