Town leaders speak out after request for pride flag at Fairhaven Town Hall is denied
FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (WLNE) – After a request for a pride flag to be flown outside of Fairhaven City Hall was denied, a group of residents has taken matters into their own hands, and the men who voted against it are speaking out.
In a 2-1 vote, the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen denied school committee member Kyle Bueno’s request to fly the flag. The board members said he missed the deadline for a flag policy that went into effect last fall.
The policy requires any flag requests to be made 60 days in advance.
According to board chair Daniel Freitas, Bueno came back to ask if the flag could be flown in August.
“I said, listen, we’ve told you over the last couple of years that we really didn’t want to get into this business of flying flags,” Freitas said. “We set up a policy. To do it in August is just gonna get it tit for tat again and we don’t want to deal with that. Since this has blown up, the easiest policy is to go back to how it was years ago and just say no to everybody.”
Freitas and the other board member who voted against the request, Keith Silvia, said that would mean they’d have to give the OK to everyone.
“If they get to fly that flag, I want to fly the iron cross flag. I want to fly the Trump flag. I want to fly the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag. I said to myself, this is getting out of control,” said Silvia, who said he’s had people approach him about the flag issue at work.
This week, a rainbow crosswalk appeared outside of the town hall and mini pride flags were put alongside the building.
“It’s important that we all create a community of inclusiveness for everyone especially our youth. What message are we sending them? From my standpoint and the feedback that we’ve gotten from other residents in Fairhaven, they love the idea of flags and pride flags, and even the State House has a pride flag,” said Gloria Perperas, who installed the flags with a group of friends.
“I understand policies are policies, but for something that’s so important, I think a small exception could have been allowed,” said Tina Newman, a Fairhaven resident.
The flags were taken down by Thursday morning, but Perperas said they’ll be back.
“We knew they were gonna go. They were not supposed to be there, we know that. But they’ll be back again on Saturday.”
She said the group plans to put new flags out in front of the town hall, this time 200 of them.
“Our hope is that we are making a stronger statement and letting them know that we’re not gonna give up.”
Bueno, the school committee member who submitted the request as a resident of Fairhaven, sent the following statement:
“As an openly gay Fairhaven resident, pride is a moment to celebrate contributions we as LGBTQ+ individuals made and continue to make in our community and society as a whole. In addition to celebrating, it is also to bring awareness to the struggles faced by the community and advocate for inclusivity. Due to former flag policy guidelines of requesting flags 60 days in advance, which I was not made aware of, I had to make that ask April 1st. Because I missed that day, I requested it be flown during the month of August. While I am disappointed 2 out of the 3 Select Board members voted to passover the opportunity to fly the pride flag in front of the town hall in August, it is ultimately the board’s decision to approve/reject these requests which I respect their authority to do so.”