Parents push Wilton selectmen for LGBTQ Pride proclamation

WILTON — Residents are calling for the town to issue a proclamation supporting the LGBTQ community, but selectmen said they limit proclamations to issues that specifically affect municipal departments and more discussions need to happen first.

Some residents said the town needs to do more for Pride month, especially compared to what other towns offer and given the current focus around mental health.

“Many other towns from Easton to Fairfield to Greenwich to Darien have made proclamations with town officials, have raised a flag, have had big town-wide events and that sends a clear message, especially to LGBTQ+ youth that they are seen and accepted,” Vanessa Elias, a resident who introduced herself as a mental health activist, said at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting.

A local Girl Scout troop is even dedicating its Silver Award Project to raising Pride awareness around town, culminating in an event at the Trackside Teen Center from 4 to 6 p.m. on June 30.

“I would love to see the town take more action to get behind this to issue these proclamations ahead of, you know, we don’t need to wait for a hate crime to be able to come forward and say that we support this,” Emma Halliwell, a resident and the troop’s leader, said at the meeting. “That we support these children and these young adults.”

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice initially responded to the inquiries, saying she limits proclamations “to matters which impact municipal governments and departments.” She also said she typically does five proclamations a year. This year, those were related to domestic violence awareness, overdose awareness, gun violence awareness, sexual assault awareness and Arbor Day.

“There’s a direct correlation to the work of the departments,” she said, describing the process with how the town comes to drafting new proclamations. She added that gay rights are very important to her personally.

Vanderslice explained that she has had to deny requests for proclamations in the past, and pondered on the results of establishing a proclamation for one cause and how that could affect other causes coming forward for their own proclamation.

“It’s widening the door,” Vanderslice said, adding she didn’t want to make a change on a reactionary basis.

She said the selectmen will need more time to discuss the matter and agreed to move the conversation to an agenda in the coming months while she pulls together a list of other requests for proclamations that have not passed.

Selectman Ross Tartell also referred to a standing proclamation on general civility that the town adopted in 2017. That proclamation states that “the selectmen of Wilton, CT do hereby affirm our town commitment to strive for civility, respect and understanding and to value the diversity of those who live and work and visit Wilton, without regard to gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, national origin, ethnicity, disability, political views, or social or economic status.”

Members of the public argued that there is a positive correlation between Pride awareness and the town’s departments and desired more than the standing proclamation.

Resident Farah Masani said the issues of mental health and potential suicide amongst members of this community is a direct impact to the police and the social service departments in town.

Nicola Davies, a school board member, said that there has never been a more important time to let Wilton’s youth know that they are seen.

Selectman Bas Nabulsi similarly thought that Pride awareness may have a direct impact to the social health in the community.

“I feel like the criteria that you used, if overlaid on this particular topic, that there is a match,” Nabulsi told Vanderslice.