, Gloucester, MA

July 13, 2013

The Mayor's Desk: The reverend and the rainbow flag

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn Kirk

---- — The other day I took myself to breakfast at Morning Glory on the Boulevard.

As I headed to a table, a nice woman beckoned me over, and said, “Did you see that awful column in the paper about you a few days ago?”

Chuckling to myself, I asked her, “Which one?” She replied, “the one written by the Rockport reverend.”

I told her that I had not seen it and that was pretty much the end of the conversation. I sat down with my trusty copy of the Gloucester Daily Times, and began to read.

When I got to the editorial page, I noticed two letters written in response to the reverend’s column. My curiosity piqued, I used my iPhone to see if I could bring up the original column on the Times’ mobile website.

I found it and proceeded to nearly choke on my scrambled eggs with cheese, linguica and onion as I read the reverend’s description of me shaking my fist at the face of God by flying the rainbow flag. I suddenly understood what the woman at the other table was talking about.

My office had been contacted by a citizen as well as the mayor’s office in Salem. Both were wondering if the city of Gloucester would participate in gay pride month in any way. Would Gloucester join in marching in the pride parade in Salem with other mayors from the North Shore? Would Gloucester hoist the rainbow flag? Was the city going to host a ceremony to kick off the month as they were doing in Salem?

I made decisions on each:

“No, I can’t march in the Pride Parade in Salem – it’s our Fiesta weekend.”

“Yes, we can join the other North Shore cities of Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Lynn in flying the flag.”

“No, we won’t be holding a ceremony. There is too much going on already.”

And then I moved on to the many other decisions I make in any given day.

Little did I know how much controversy would be brought on by flying the rainbow flag. My assistant informed me that the rainbow flag was one of the top three in terms of numbers of calls generated — more than closed fire stations, more than potholes, more than school issues. With each call, we diligently explained that the city followed proper flag protocol, that Gloucester would participate with other communities in Gay Pride month and that Gloucester was proud to support all of its citizens.

Now, I have been called a lot of names and accused of a lot of things but nothing comes close to being accused of taking on God himself and raising my fist in his face. That has to take the cake.

You have to have thick skin in this job, so while the reverend’s remarks don’t really bother me, what I feel badly about is for my gay friends and the many LGBT members of our communities and their loves ones.

The reaction we received at the Mayor’s Office tells me that prejudice still simmers below the surface of too many among us. We may live in “liberal” Massachusetts. The Defense of Marriage Act may have been struck down by the Supreme Court. But we still need to fly rainbow flags in our communities to state firmly that we celebrate the humanity of all of our residents and continue to educate those who are fearful or hateful.

As the woman arose from her table, I beckoned her over to mine, and said, “I found the column you were referring to.”

She responded, “Wasn’t it terrible?” I agreed and remarked “I guess I’ll have to go to confession.”

We both laughed and went on with our day.

Carolyn A. Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.