LITTLE FALLS, N.J. - The Township of Little Falls raised its first-ever rainbow flag in honor of Gay Pride Month in front of Town Hall on June 17. Several dozen attendees came by to show their support for the LGBTQ community.
Pride Month is designated for the entire month of June in support of LGBTQ rights. Damiano said he was thrilled to recognize the contributions of the LGBTQ community in the Township.
"With the world we're living in today, it's more important than ever to recognize the diversity of our community and embrace all of its members," he stated. "By doing so, we help ensure that everyone enjoys the quality, dignity and respect that every single person deserves."
Damiano thanked everyone in attendance and spoke of recent events in the nation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, including the nation's "necessary uproar" for equal rights for everybody. He said the civil rights was not a "flat and static" fight, and was not limited to one group.
"It should be equal for everybody," he explained. "It's not about race, it's not about your gender, and it's not about your sexual orientation. It's none of those things. Everybody is equal and I could not be happier and I want to thank all of you here tonight."
He also spoke about the changing attitudes towards acceptance. He said that Little Falls is a community that embraces everyone and moving forward, it will continue to embrace everybody.
"This is our first annual gay pride flag-raising ceremony and I know a lot of us, including myself, thought over the years that Little Falls may not have been ready for this," Damiano further stated. "But I cannot be any happier than I am here today to say that Little Falls is a community that embraces everybody. It's always been that way or at least should have been."
He then referred to the beginning of the modern gay rights movement in New York City in 1969, followed by the legalization of gay marriage In June 2015. He also highlighted this past month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also protects LGBTQ Americans from workplace discrimination. Damiano called the ruling a "substantial win for Little Falls."
"June is a very special month for the LGBTQ community," he added. "As far as flag-raising, that's just our small recognition of the entire project and process, not only here in Little Falls but also in the United States."
Councilman Chris Vancheri said he was honored to be a part of the first-ever flag raising ceremony in support of Gay Pride Month at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Ratering-Youngberg spoke of the acceptance of everyone in her congregation at the First Reformed Church of Little Falls., and said she was also honored to attend the event.
"Our church is what’s known as 'open and affirming' towards our LGBTQ neighbors, and we welcome all the diversity of Little Falls," she added. "God Bless this community and all the efforts being made."
Hirsch said that the Supreme Court ruling was much needed good news but more work is needed.
"This is a landmark victory in the courts this week. but there is still more work to be done," she stated, adding that the movement has an ally with Rep. Sherrill.
Damiano also said that the pride flag need to be displayed at half-staff this year due to the deaths related to COVID-19, regarding Governor Phil Murphy's executive order.
"For that reason it will be at 7 feet high this year, but we will have that flying high in the future," he noted.
On-hand was Mayor James Damiano, along with Council President Anthony Sgobba, Councilwoman Maria Martini Cordonnier, Councilman Al Kahwaty, Councilman Chris Vancheri and Councilwoman Tanya Seber. Also in attendance was Police Chief Stephen Post, Pastor Emily Ratering-Youngberg of the First Reformed Church of Little Falls, and Jill Hirsch, district director of Rep. Mikie Sherrill's office.