LIVINGSTON, NJ — Stating that the Township of Livingston became a trendsetter within the state after raising the Pride Flag at the Memorial Oval for the first week of June in 2016, members of the Livingston Committee for Diversity (LCD) requested on Monday that the township council now approve the flying of the flag for entire month of June. 

Following the LCD’s proposal at the township council meeting on Monday, the council unanimously agreed to this request as well as the committee’s request to change its name from “Livingston Committee for Diversity” to “Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion.”

“Following our last Pride Flag raising, I was over at the state house and was approached by several assemblymen and assemblywomen as well as two state senators about how Livingston has actually inspired their districts to move forward with LGBT equality and representation,” said LCD Co-chair Billy Fine. “I feel that, as Livingston has been so progressive so far in making this step, it has also helped solidify our position as a community in the whole state.”

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In keeping with its mission to “celebrate the cultural heritage and backgrounds of Livingston’s residents,” the LCD specifically requested that the council approve this flag-flying extension in recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month.

In 2016, the council approved the flying of the flag for the first week of June, which was the committee’s original request to coincide with New York Pride Week. According to Fine and co-chair Susan Berkenbush, the committee was taking baby steps by requesting the flying for one week and said the request for a full month is the natural progression in order to align with LGBTQ Pride Month.

According to Fine, news of Essex County Freeholder Patricia Sebold’s attendance at the first flag raising in her hometown of Livingston spread rapidly, causing many other Northern New Jersey districts to follow suit and propose the same to their individual towns’ governing bodies.

Data provided by the LCD at the meeting showed that many neighboring municipalities like Newark, Montclair, South Orange and Maplewood as well as other towns like Clifton, Jersey City, Union City, Hackensack and more already fly their Pride Flag for the entire month of June, according to Garden State Equality.

Berkenbush said that the LCD feels flying the flag for the entire month would be a meaningful way to acknowledge the LGBTQ members of the direct community as well as to raise awareness and foster inclusion. In addition, she said that approving the proposal would publicly demonstrate the governing body’s continued support of the community.

“Also, in the face of all the violence especially against the transgender community, we want to reinforce and reiterate that Livingston is a welcoming, safe community for people in the LGBTQ community,” said Berkenbush.

“While we are aware that there are voices who have opposed within the community, it also signifies that we can actually open up new feelings and have people who have not been able to voice who they are as individuals voice themselves,” said Fine. “So this is an inspirational process, which will help us grow.”

Although the council will have to officially adopt a resolution approving both requests at a later meeting, the council also agreed to approve the changing of the committee’s name to “Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion.”

“Diversity really makes us unique,” said Berkenbush. “Inclusion brings us all together. The name change would demonstrate our commitment to both celebrating our differences and at the same time conveying that we all have living in Livingston as a commonality.”  

Mayor Shawn Klein and members of the council unanimously agreed that the committee gave a great presentation and accepted both requests.

In addition, the council also agreed later in the meeting to approve a request to raise the Israeli Flag in the same location on May 2 during a celebration of Israeli Independence Day. In this case, the request was to fly the flag only during the event and to take it down the same day.