The village of Riverside found itself in the midst of an obviously unexpected tempest last week after erecting a banner in Guthrie Park marking Gay Pride Month. The village placed the banner, which essentially was the familiar rainbow flag, at the request of an organization called Action for a Better Tomorrow, which submitted a permit application to do so.
Village rules for banners are pretty clear about what’s allowed. Basically, if you’re a civic or church group and you have an event you’re pitching, you’re good. The banner proposed by Action for a Better Tomorrow was something different. It was a values statement. That’s fine, but it opens up a can of worms that no municipal government wants to deal with.
Talk about the law of unintended consequences.
That said, governments make statements about values all the time. After voters approved an advisory referendum to incorporate green practices in public works projects, the village changed its policy to do just that.
Although it hasn’t happened in Riverside, North Riverside or Brookfield yet, many area municipalities and school districts have passed “welcoming” resolutions to calm the undocumented immigrants who fear agents may come into public buildings or seek local police assistance in separating them from their families.
If Riverside feels strongly about what that rainbow flag stands for, there’s nothing stopping village government from incorporating it officially in some way, whether it’s to fly it from the village flagpole or something else.
There may be pushback. It may be nasty. But that says more about the people complaining about inclusion than those promoting it.
We have no problem with the village keeping a tight lid on exactly what kind of private groups’ banners get displayed on public property. No one wants to deal with that can of worms.
But making bold statements (is acknowledging equal rights for LGBTQ people really that bold?) about core values is something we see no need to shy away from.