Residents pushing for Wilton Pride proclamation upset with delay

Photo of J.D. Freda
Members of the Wilton Children's Theater perform at a June Pride event held in Wilton and hosted by a local Girl Scouts Troop.

Members of the Wilton Children's Theater perform at a June Pride event held in Wilton and hosted by a local Girl Scouts Troop.

Jarret Liotta / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Some residents are not satisfied with the selectmen moving discussions for a Pride proclamation to January, and they are letting officials know.

Numerous members of the public spoke out about it at the Board of Selectmen’s recent meeting.

“As a mother of a 19-year-old transgender person, I come to ask you for a Pride proclamation,” Farah Masani, of Wilton, said to the selectmen.

Residents pushed for a Pride proclamation last month. First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said at the time the board would 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.

Selectmen reiterated at the recent meeting that they limit proclamations to issues that specifically affect municipal departments and that more discussions need to happen first. The selectmen also felt an existing proclamation made in 2017 addressed such concerns.

That proclamation states “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.”

Selectmen discussed reissuing the standing proclamation every year, or two years when selectmen’s terms end.

“I understand that you want to revisit, with every new selectperson that comes into office, the existing proclamation, but not saying something is saying something,” Masani said.

Resident Donna Peterson said that refusing to issue a proclamation such as this would be concerning for a town focused on attracting new and younger residents.

Other residents pushed the selectmen on a definitive answer.

“If ‘no’ is the answer we are going to receive, OK, then ‘no’ is the answer we receive,” said resident Nicole Wilson-Spiro. “But we haven’t received any answer. It’s as if we are not speaking.”

She went on to say it felt disheartening and disrespectful not to be given an answer.

Vanderslice contended that the board’s stance was clear and, since Pride month was over, they wouldn’t issue a proclamation this year.

The selectmen will, however, reevaluate their standards for what constitutes the issuing of a proclamation in January.

As of now, the only policy surrounding proclamations is the policy put forth by Vanderslice, which is that proclamations must have a direct correlation or relationship to town government.

“As I said at the previous Board of Selectmen meeting, I am concerned about expanding the criteria for proclamations,” Vanderslice told Hearst after the meeting. “Just as these women asked for a proclamation for Pride month, the gentleman concerned about abortions might ask for a proclamation about National Sanctity of Human Life Day, a day declared by a number of presidents, or the mother of a redhead, like me, might ask for a proclamation for National Redhead Appreciation Day, which exists on Sept. 23.”

The issue, according to Vanderslice, is that none of these subjects have a direct impact on the work of Wilton's municipal government.

Resident Vanessa Elias argues that publicly supporting Pride and LGBTQ members of the community has a direct correlation to the town’s law enforcement and social services.

Masani argued that issues of mental health and potential suicide among members of this community impact Wilton’s police and social service departments and that connection provides the direct impact referenced in Vanderslice’s policy.

Vanderslice said she also responded to an email from a resident asking for the town to issue a proclamation on the number of abortions occurring in the United States.

“I not aware of any nexus between municipal departments and abortion, therefore it isn't an appropriate subject for a proclamation,” Vanderslice said in her response.

Vanderslice maintained that the selectmen will come together to make a decision on proclamation policies after discussion in the first few weeks of 2023.

“In January, the Board of Selectmen may decide to adopt a BOS policy and issue board proclamations,” Vanderslice said, “or they may decide to continue to have me issue the proclamations and provide me with guidance.”