The City of Mason has joined communities across the country to declare June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month,” but it wasn’t without debate. The declarations began more than 20 years ago when President Bill Clinton made a national declaration in 1999.
Mason Councilmember Rita Vogel made this year’s resolution on April 4. After spirited discussion the resolution narrowly passed, 4-3.
Councilmember Elaine Ferris, who attempted to abstain, broke the tie. The other supporters were Mayor Pro Tem Marlon Brown, and Councilmembers Vogel and Jerry Schaffer. Councilmembers Jon Droscha, Councilmember Leon Clark, and Mayor Russ Whipple were opposed.
Whipple said, “you won’t see me vote yes on another commemoration resolution, ever” and was particularly outspoken.
“I have struggled with this sort of a resolution for a long, long time,” said Whipple, “I don’t think it’s a good practice for the City Council to get into to recognize every month that somebody feels needs to be recognized. I don’t see this as an issue that the City Council is directly involved with, and you can be rest assured that you won’t see my yes vote on any resolution in the future that is a commemoration of a month like this”.
Whipple and Droscha voiced several concerns about the council’s role in passing commemorative resolutions. When Droscha asked how the resolution “helps the city operationally,” Vogel’s response was concise: “Representation matters.” According to Vogel, the resolution is like other LGBTQ+ issues that the City Council has addressed.
“We’ve already made decisions operationally to make sure that same-sex partnerships are recognized in our retirement plans,” Vogel said.
Schaffer said Pride Month “needs to be recognized,” despite the fact that it may not be relevant from an operations standpoint.
“Any example that we can do as leaders of the City of Mason to recognize people who need help can’t hurt. Maybe it won’t help, but it can’t hurt. So, I don’t see what the problem is here, that a simple resolution from a councilperson supporting these folks is going to hurt anybody. In my opinion, it needs to be done,” said Schaffer.
Although Whipple said he has received emails from constituents who are “adamantly against” the resolution, several community members have also voiced support for it. Mason resident Mary Louks spoke up in support at the Monday meeting, and thanked Vogel for the resolution.
“When we discriminate against LGBTQ people on topics like same-sex marriage, workplace safety, trans athletes and early childhood education, queer kids are listening. They’re internalizing, and they’re suffering,” said Louks. “But today, we can help paint a different story.”