Five clergy members representing four religious organizations in Wilton are urging the Board of Selectmen to reconsider its choice not to issue a separate proclamation in support of Wilton’s LGBTQIA community.
The five who have written an open letter to the BOS members include Cantor Harriet Dunkerley, the spiritual leader at Temple B’nai Chaim; Rev. Caroline Ainsworth Hughes and Rev. Suzanne E. Wagner, the co-pastors at Wilton Congregational Church; Rev. Mark Montgomery, the interim pastor at Wilton Presbyterian Church; and Rev. Marissa Stuart Rohrbach, the rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.
BOS members have twice declined to create a separate proclamation in support of individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, most recently at their first meeting of 2023. Instead, the officials reaffirmed their commitment to the Town’s existing Civility, Respect and Understanding (CRU) Proclamation along with its policies on other proclamations and banners at Town Hall.
The topic came to the forefront in June 2022 when a group of residents first sought a proclamation by the Town in support of Pride Month. The request for that proclamation was denied on the basis that it fell outside the criteria First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice uses to approve or deny requests for proclamations, although officials did approve posting a Pride Month banner on Town Hall’s front lawn when the residents submitted a new request together with a local non-profit — the Girl Scouts — in accordance with Vanderslice’s criteria.
Residents have continued to keep up the pressure on the BOS to make a proclamation explicitly for Wilton’s LGBTQIA+ community. Earlier this year, after filing to become an official nonprofit, Wilton Pride sent a letter to the BOS again seeking a separate proclamation to coincide with Pride Month in June.
The Civility Proclamation affirms the town’s 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.”
In their letter to the BOS, which was shared with GOOD Morning Wilton, the five clergy members wrote that the words in the town’s Civility Proclamtion don’t go far enough.
“Just claiming that we will all respect each other, [and] that we will all be nice to each other regardless of the differences between us is never enough to create authentic community. And it certainly isn’t enough to create safe community,” they wrote.
Moreover, they warned that not having a proclamation sent a negative message about the town: “Wilton’s continued refusal to do such a thing only reinforces the concern that this may not be a safe place for all people.”
“We hope to make it clear that Wilton is a safe and wonderful community for LGBTQIA+ children, people, and families. To make it clear that not only will this town be civil, but that the lives, stories, and identities of these people will be respected and honored in all the same ways as other people. It’s important to say that out loud because it hasn’t been the norm,” they write.
They said each of their faith organizations have confronted the question of “marginalized communities” and being intentional in how they are regarded.
“Is it enough just to welcome all people? Is it enough just to be committed to respecting all people? Does that create real safety in our communities for people who have experienced trauma or oppression? Is it enough to just promise to be nice to everyone? In all of our traditions, the answer to that question has been no.”
A proclamation of support that specifically singles out the LGBTQIA+ community they say would reinforce support for a group that has not always been accepted or embraced, or worse, has been targeted. “We are in favor of supporting the rights, dignity, and needs of all people. However, it is our experience that there are some cases where ‘all’ hasn’t always meant all,” they write.
The full letter is below:
To the Members of the Board of Selectmen, Town of Wilton:
In solidarity with Wilton Pride, we write to urge you to issue a proclamation that is directly in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. We appreciate the spirit of a Civility Proclamation, that seeks to make [a] safe space for all people. Certainly, we are in favor of supporting the rights, dignity, and needs of all people. However, it is our experience that there are some cases where “all” hasn’t always meant all, and where specific marginalized communities need to be named, celebrated and welcomed intentionally.
We represent several different faith traditions, each with a long and rich history. In each of our traditions, we have confronted the same question of access and privilege. Is it enough just to welcome all people? Is it enough just to be committed to respecting all people? Does that create real safety in our communities for people who have experienced trauma or oppression? Is it enough to just promise to be nice to everyone?
In all of our traditions, the answer to that question has been no. Just claiming that we will all respect each other, [and] that we will all be nice to each other regardless of the differences between us is never enough to create authentic community. And it certainly isn’t enough to create safe community. In fact, the only way to do that is to explicitly name and welcome, to learn about, to lift up, and to celebrate people who have typically been excluded or harmed because of their identity. Civility is not the same thing as welcome. Welcome is not the same thing as safety. Safety is not the same thing as equality. Each one of us represents a community that has learned to overtly name and welcome, to celebrate difference, and to not just speak these things, but to live into them.
In asking for a special proclamation for LGBTQIA+ people, we hope to make it clear that Wilton is a safe and wonderful community for LGBTQIA+ children, people, and families. To make it clear that not only will this town be civil, but that the lives, stories, and identities of these people will be respected and honored in all the same ways as other people. It’s important to say that out loud because it hasn’t been the norm. And Wilton’s continued refusal to do such a thing only reinforces the concern that this may not be a safe place for all people.
We urge you, as people of faith who serve this community, to reconsider the decision, to choose to issue a proclamation in support of LGBTQIA+ people, and to make it clear to all that this is a place where identity will be respected, honored, and accepted.
Cantor Harriet Dunkerley, Spiritual Leader, Temple B’nai Chaim
Rev. Caroline Ainsworth Hughes, Co-Pastor, Wilton Congregational Church
The Rev. Mark Montgomery, Interim Pastor, Wilton Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Marissa Stuart Rohrbach, Rector, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton
Rev. Suzanne E. Wagner, Co-Pastor, Wilton Congregational Church
I stand with the Selectmen. The Town has a long standing policy which deserves respect.
Proclamations have no special powers. Use your respective pulpits to broadcast your message. Collectively you reach almost all of the citizens in Wilton.
Agreed. Special interest group mandates often infringe upon the rights of others.
If proclamations have no special powers, what’s the harm in issuing one?
These ministers and many others have come out to support it, and say it would be meaningful to them, and I don’t believe anybody has publicly opposed it on anything other than pretextual process-related / “it’s not something we do” type grounds.
If the BoS or anybody else in Wilton doesn’t approve of Pride then they ought to come right out and say it; punting on it and burying it and making up silly reasons not to do it is the same sort of quiet bigotry that caused us to reject Open Choice, and fight tooth-and-nail against inclusive zoning, and do all of the other crap Connecticut Republicans are constantly trying to put a smiling moderate face on.
No need to get all upset simply because others have a different opinion. Nor is it appropriate to badger others to accept someone else’s opinion. The “bigotry” reference is similarly inappropriate.
The bigotry comment is completely and entirely appropriate; that’s what this is and it ought to be called out.
And I don’t expect you to change your opinion, I expect the BoS to do their job in showing support for all Wilton residents by issuing this proclamation. And if they don’t then I very much hope they face the consequences of that decision in November.
Who said it was there job to do the bidding of a minority opinion?
Too much whining
Frankly there are many who are sick and tired of listening to the whining from this minority population. The language they propose will do nothing to change the minds of those that do not approve of the lifestyle.
This isn’t about changing anyone’s minds, it’s about showing that Wilton is a welcoming / accepting place. People who “don’t approve of the lifestyle” can carry on doing that privately. (they don’t seem to be willing to stick out their necks and do so publicly even now)
and there is an election coming up…Just because you are not a member of the LGBTQ+ minority doesn’t mean you can’t stand by their side…
Ms. Vanderslice has my respect for standing up for true equality — the town’s current proclamation applies to ALL people, without any one group identified for special status. No one group should be more “equal” than others in the town’s governance. E Pluribus Unum.
That’s not equality any more than “all lives matter” is equality. Showing pride + acceptance of a historically marginalized group isn’t conveying any special status, it’s pushing back against that ugly history. And a proclamation isn’t governance, nobody’s saying that there ought to be guaranteed LGBTQ+ representation on the zoning board or whatever; it’s simply a public statement, nothing more.
Honestly, guys, this isn’t even smart politics; the Board of Selectmen is the least exciting of the 4 main boards, they rarely deal with any exciting issues like schools or money or blocking promising housing projects; voters are looking for pretty much any excuse to pick one candidate or the other. If Republicans on the BoS want to take a stand on the wrong side of this issue, they’re going to end up losing their majority, and quite badly.
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