Let me say at the outset here that I’m no fan of superfluous government regulations or rules. Every time I hear about some homeowner, business or organization being taken to task over a piddling law involving the weave of fabric used on an awning or some such mess, the blood pressure rises and the jaw begins to clench.
However, I would posit the need for some regulations and guidelines in every city or state, including for gatherings. Let’s just say, oh, for instance, that a pride festival doesn’t fit the guidelines for a proclamation to honor the event. If I was the mayor of the hypothetical town where this hypothetical pride parade was taking place, I don’t think I should be under any duty to issue that proclamation. If I didn’t, it certainly shouldn’t be a minor national news story.
But here we are in the corporeal world, not the hypothetical one, and Mayor Donna Schmitt of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, is actually making news because she didn’t celebrate the inaugural pride event in her town.
Schmitt is facing criticism after she formulated a set of rules regarding town proclamations after the pride festival began to ask for one, according to KSTP-TV.
Those rules stated that proclamations wouldn’t be issued for “[m]atters of political controversy, ideological or religious beliefs, or individual conviction” and that “[t]he Mayor’s Office reserves the right to modify or deny any proclamation request.”
I don’t think these are necessarily unfair regulations, particularly since the proclamation is ceremonial and, yes, there are certain elements of pride events which can be confrontational and controversial to those people who, to paraphrase our former president, cling to their religion. (Perhaps even their guns, too, though that’s for a different time and place.)
So, Schmitt declined to issue the proclamation. That’s why the Columbia Heights LGBT community and its allies decided to pack the city council meeting on Monday to protest her decision. About a dozen activists showed up to oppose the non-proclamation.
“She didn’t think that it was important enough for a proclamation,” Amada Marquez Simula, the event organizer, told KSTP-TV. She believed that the event fell within the guidelines. “Right now, the eye is on Columbia Heights that our city government is biased against the LGBTQ community.”
Schmitt, meanwhile, said it was about the regulations.
“It is not about a group, it’s about, let’s follow the guidelines,” Schmitt said in an interview. “They can go out and celebrate, they are more than welcome to rent our parks and have a family friendly event as they have requested. I just hope they realize, they don’t represent everyone in the city either.”
Whether you agree with Schmitt’s decision, I think two things are worth noting here. First, the pride celebration will go on unabated this Saturday. In fact, I would wager it’ll draw a lot more people given the pseudo-controversy it has created. Second, nobody — not even a town — should be forced to celebrate something.
That’s one of the things the LGBT community misses on here: No individual institution, no government or individual, should be forced to celebrate someone’s identity if it thinks it will create controversy or it contradicts one’s belief system. This isn’t advocating for bigotry or castigation or anything of the sort; those are prima facie immoral. However, demanding that people treat you or your community with unalloyed jubilation — even if that creates controversy or breaks rules — isn’t anyone’s right, and it doesn’t constitute small-mindedness when that jubilation isn’t offered.
Mayor Schmitt says she’s doing this because she doesn’t think that it fits within what she believes should be the city’s purview regarding proclamations. Whether this is based on some unconscious bias, I don’t know; I have no way of seeing inside the mayor’s heart or mind, and unless you have some sort of Marianne Williamson special love-beaming power, this knowledge is necessarily denied to you as well.
Nobody can demand to be celebrated, and the rules — hardly unreasonable or meddlesome — apply to everyone. If a proclamation is issued for a controversial cause associated with the political or cultural right, yes, there’s reason to complain. Until then, crowing about how this is indicative of a veiled prejudice on the part of the mayor simply isn’t corroborated by the facts.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.