NUTLEY, NJ - Nutley took a step forward Tuesday, June 18, joining many other towns in New Jersey and the United States in support of Pride Month. The Board of Commissioners presented a proclamation declaring June 2019 as LGBTQ+ “Pride Month” throughout the Township of Nutley.
Although all five commissioners were present in the back room for the conference portion of the June 18 meeting, Public Affairs Commissioner Steven L. Rogers and Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco left after the closed executive session before entering the Commission Chambers and were marked “absent excused” for the rest of the public meeting. According to Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli, Rogers had to go to New York. Scarpelli requested a moment of silence for Petracco’s mother, who is in the hospital.
As of Monday morning June 24, the two commissioners, Rogers and Petraccco, did not sign the proclamation. Both commissioners were present for the signing on June 18.
Scarpelli read the Pride Month proclamation receiving a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. Over 50 people came out to show their support. Scarpelli, Revenue and Finance Commissioner Thomas J. Evans and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mauro G. Tucci stood up and applauded with the crowd.
The proclamation states the “Nutley Board of Commissioners recognizes that the pursuit of equality, respect and inclusion for all individuals is an attainable goal.” It further states the township supports diversity and inclusion within the community. And says “this nation was founded on the principle that every individual has infinite value and worth, and that human rights are protected under our U.S. Constitution.”
Also noted in the proclamation is the acknowledgement for the need of education and awareness to end discrimination, biases and prejudice.
Nutley resident Rhonda Frobose questioned the commissioners during public comment at the June 6 BOC meeting, on the absence of the acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the township. She spoke on behalf of her adult child, who identifies as transgender nonbinary. Frobose said her child graduated Nutley High School two years ago and found it very difficult for them.
Frobose said at the meeting, “Mayor Scarpelli […] Thank you for listening, Commissioner Tucci, Commissioner Evans, thank you for listening. You listened and you heard the people of Nutley. We’re here and we are proud allies. Some of us are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, thank you so much, this means a lot.”
Frobose said in a separate interview that she was not surprised at the quick turnaround to proclaim June as Pride Month in Nutley. “After the first meeting (June 6 BOC public meeting) I went to, Mayor Scarpelli reached out to me to show Nutley as an inclusive community.”
She also was not surprised by the large turnout at the meeting. “I have been in Nutley over 25 years and know a lot of people and speaking with people around town, there is a big support of the LGBTQ community,” Frobose said.
However Frobose said most the support is passive, such as people saying “live and let live” and “as long as they are good people.” “The only voices heard are the negative voices and that becomes the voices of Nutley. What isn’t heard is the voices against those negative. I’m trying to turn that around so that the voice of Nutley is an inclusive voice,” she said.
According to Frobose, Scarpelli and she are discussing possible ways Nutley can show more support for the LGBTQ+ community next June. A visual show of pride and potentially an event are on the list for next year. “Next June it will be known in Nutley and outside, that Nutley is an inclusive community,” she said.
Frobose explained the importance of Pride month, of Pride parades and other related events in June. “All around towns are having pride events and people say ‘why do we have to do that.’ You have to defend your existence,” she said.
She said LGBTQ+ people are ridiculed on a daily basis. “They have to explain their selves how they dress, wear their hair; when they hold hands, they are forced to explain it on a daily basis. They have to think if we hold hands at the grocery store is someone going to attack us,” said Frobose.
The LGBTQ+ community needs to see the support of its community said Frobose. “As allies we have to be carrying the heavy weights for them and when we hear something derogatory we have to stand up for them. Our discomfort is minuscule compared to someone who deals with this on a daily basis,” she said.
The proclamation is only the beginning for Nutley, according to Frobose. “It’s a first step and a big step for Nutley. One of the things that Mayor Scarpelli is doing with this proclamation, he is setting the bar that this is the voice of Nutley, that this is an inclusive community and we acknowledge there has been hardship and we will show our support and that’s just step number one.”
Frobose said those who do not take action, to not hurt a certain group of people, those who are silent, and refuse to take sides, are actually taking an action. “No action is an action,” she said.
Since the June 6 meeting, Frobose has received great support from the residents of Nutley. “The past two weeks have been nothing but positive. “Since I reached out to the Board of Commissioners at their meeting I have received a tremendous response in thanking me for reaching out to the commissioners because they are either gay or a parent of a LGBTQ and they know they are not alone.”
Tapinto Nutley followed up with the five commissioners in separate interviews on the Pride Month Proclamation.
Scarpelli said, “The Pride Month Proclamation made a real difference in our community. Several residents expressed their thanks, shared their stories, and told how important it was to know their town was tolerant and accepting. As one resident wrote, ‘working together we can foster a warm and hospitable place for all to live.’ I believe Nutley is a township where everyone deserves respect, dignity, and equality.”
Evans said, “I was pleased and proud to be able to be a part of this proclamation. I am pleased to support the proclamation because it’s about inclusion; human rights are protected under our Constitution and as part of this governing body we represent all of our citizens proudly.”
Tucci said, “The significance of the proclamation was to let everyone know that Nutley is a community of acceptance and inclusion. It’s important to me because it’s important to a segment of our population that needed to be heard and recognized.”
Rogers and Petracco declined to comment.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 2.