PATERSON, NJ - “Raising the pride flag won’t fix all of our issues,” longtime Paterson resident Denise Womack told TAPinto Paterson in an email Wednesday. “But it will say ‘Paterson sees you, and you are not alone in the fight.”

The message, coming just hours after local activist, poet, and educator Elizabeth Valverde used her three minutes of public speaking time to implore upon the Paterson City Council to follow the trend set in communities across the nation in hoisting the rainbow colors synonymous with the fight for equality for members of the LGBTQ community, would not be the only one received by TAPinto Paterson, and was, he said, one that Mayor Andre Sayegh has heard loud and clear.

“Being One Paterson means celebrating our diversity in whatever form it takes,” Sayegh said. Adding that he and his wife were celebrating their nine-year anniversary on Wednesday, the same day history books commemorate as the one that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marraige, Sayegh offered his view that “love is love.”

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“We will be raising the pride flag so that it can fly proudly over Paterson City Hall,” Sayegh committed

“The right to love is a human right,” Valverde said before going on to quote renowned Paterson poet, and LGBTQ icon, Allen Ginsburg, whose words “The Weight of the World is Love” are now emblazoned across a wall at the Paterson Great Falls thanks to the work of several students led by a local mural artist.

“I think it’s time to honor the freedom of love,” Valverde added, reminding the council that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, as well as the third anniversary of the Pulse Nighclub shooting which took the lives of 49 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Citing statistics published separately by the Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBTQ Task Force that show that 92 percent of LGBTQ youth have heard negative messages about their sexuality, 49 percent of members of the trans African American community have attempted suicide, and that 41 percent of those who consider themselves LGBTQ and Black have been homless at some point, Valverde concluded that “we need to send the message that Paterson does not tolerate hate, that we celebrate love without discrimination.”

Saying that a flag raising would “open the doors for inclusion, discussion, understanding, compassion, tolerance, and acceptance,” Nelly Celi, a long time Paterson resident whose resume includes extensive community service including as a member of the Paterson Library Board, suggested “sometimes we forget that we are all humans and we should all be free to love and be loved without fear or embarrassment, for love is pure.”

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