Board Approves Displaying Pride Month Banner on Town Property

Image from 2022 Bedford Pride Day Festival by Shannon Dillon/Creative Images Boston

The Bedford Select Board has approved placement of a banner on town property celebrating June as Pride Month in line with the recently-adopted flag and banner policy.

However, the board delayed adoption of an updated diversity and inclusion statement as some members disagreed on its breadth. Town Manager Matt Hanson and two board members will revise the draft for an upcoming vote.

The banner will be displayed in front of the police station on Mudge Way, which is one area where temporary signs are located.

The policy limits displays to federal and state flags, the Bedford Flag, the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action flag, and those promoting town values or town-sponsored events.

Since the Youth and Family Services Department is co-sponsoring a pride celebration, the Pride Month banner qualifies under the policy. When one is adopted, the diversity statement also will bring such a banner under the policy’s umbrella. 

Despite the policy, Select Board member Paul Mortenson voted against placing the banner because of fears of a precedent. 

The grass-roots organization Bedford Embraces Diversity has been advocating for the banner as well as the equity statement for the past year. In June 2023, the banner was displayed on the southern half of the Town Common, owned by First Parish in Bedford, because of the lack of a policy.

Marilou Barsam, one of the founders of the 10-year-old group, attended the meeting and said after the vote that Bedford Embraces Diversity “wants to be known for standing for causes like this.” 

Kelly Korenak, president of the Parents Diversity Council, told the board that an equity and inclusion statement “affirms that people of all identities and backgrounds are welcome, and placing the banner on town property is a visual marker.”

Board member Emily Mitchell pointed out that “the policy we adopted at our last meeting clearly says which flags and banners are allowed.” 

Her colleague Dan Brosgol said that although “for some people, a flag on a building is a third rail, support for causes on town property is absolutely doable.”   

Hanson also presented the following updated equity and inclusion statement: “People of all races, genders, abilities, and sexualities experience Bedford as a safe, vibrant, and healthy place to live, work, play, thrive, and participate fully in community life.”

Brosgol noted that the School Committee approved a more “expansive” statement in January 2023.

“I would like to cast a wider net,” he said, including adding the category of religions. It’s a “glaring absence because this is a time of religious persecution.”

Mitchell wondered how that would apply to someone who professed no religion. She said she liked the simplicity of the draft presented by Hanson. 

Select Board member Bopha Malone said the significance of the statement adopted by the board mandates a unanimous vote.

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