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Lake Wales
Monday, July 22, 2024

Lake Wales Public Divided Over Lack of LGBT Pride Proclamation


by James Coulter

Many Lake Wales residents were less than proud that their city has not recognized LGBT Pride Month with an official proclamation. Some even voiced their disapproval during the public comments of the city commission meeting on Tuesday evening.

While many other cities in Polk County have recognized Pride Month with official proclamations, Lake Wales has yet to release a proclamation. A similar incident happened last year when a Pride Month proclamation was removed from the city commission agenda.

As with last year, the refusal of the city to officially recognize Pride Month left many city residents feeling less than proud and prompted them to voice their disapproval during the city commission meeting.

One resident, Charlene Bennett, cited the lack of a Pride Month Proclamation, among other grievances, as evidence the City of Lake Wales acts like a “Middle Age serfdom rather than a progressive city”, and she scolded the mayor for placing his personal religious beliefs before others.

“Everyone knows that Jesus said nothing about LGBT people, but he said a lot about loving your neighbor and being your brother’s keeper,” she said. “Does this latest decision reflect Christian love?”

Another resident, David Jones, who had worked as a paramedic for 20 years, spoke about how he treated all patients, regardless of who they were, because it was his job. As such, he chastised the mayor for refusing to do the same by ignoring LGBT Pride Month.

“I still provided service to my patients regardless of their political or personal beliefs, if they were bigoted or did not care about LGBT, but I treated them like any other patient because it is my job,” he said. “You ran as a unifier. You stated it at the podium many times during the campaign. Yet you fail to recognize the contributions of the LGBT residents who reside in the city…To be dismissive of the contributions they have made is shameful.”

Catherine Price cited her own personal beliefs as a Quaker Christian to stand by the local LGBT community in solidarity. As a Quaker, she believes there is a little bit of God and truth in everyone, which is why she believes everyone is deserving of love and respect. As such, she is saddened that the city refuses to show similar love and respect to their LGBT residents.

“We believe our challenge as a person is defined by God in other people, especially people I do not like or think like me. This is the biggest challenge to understand who they are and where they stand,” she said. “Our community will continue to diversify. If you want to make the world more beautiful, we need more experiences to share our diversity. We have to encourage ways to recognize our diverse community. We as a community want diversity among us. We need to work on that.”

However, while many residents shamed the Mayor and City Commission for not officially recognizing LGBT Pride Month, other residents commended them for not kowtowing to what they see as a subversive political agenda.

Jim Taggart congratulated the city commission for not capitulating to a “political agenda” by either reading an official proclamation or hosting a local gay pride event.

“It is a sad indictment to celebrate another’s sexual perversion,” he said. “It is nice to have an official to stand up to what is wrong. We want to say thank you and you have our respect sir.”

Another resident, Brett Colbert, compared the “bravery” of the City Commission to that of the WW2 soilders who landed in Normandy on D-Day. He claimed that not recognizing LGBT Pride Month was a “freedom” every American had, and that anyone who thought otherwise should do something useful rather than protest.

“Some celebrate this as Pride month,” he said. “I acknowledge this community. I will not celebrate with you. I do not reject you, but I chose not to party with you. It is your right. That is what living in a free country is about. We see you. We acknowledge. But do not force the rest of us to accept your lifestyle. Do something good instead of protesting. That will get you noticed.”

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Staff Reporter

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