To the Editor:
Recently, the Sussex County Board of Commissioners was contacted by Sussex County Pride with a request for a proclamation declaring June as Pride Month, as has been done in counties throughout New Jersey and states throughout the nation. Also included was a request to fly the LGBTQ+ flag at county offices, as has been done at other parts of the Garden State. The request was denied.
In a response signed by Teri Clark, Board Clerk, but obviously dictated by Commissioner Director Dawn (Pro-respect) Fantasia, it was stated that proclamation requests had to be submitted a month in advance. Therefore, it could not be considered at either of the scheduled commissioners’ meetings in June. And, according to the letter, it would be impermissible to fly the Pride flag at the county administration building, as only certain types of flags other than the Stars and Stripes are allowed.
I’m calling out the board on both issues. First, the board recently allowed an item not on the agenda to be inserted for discussion at a meeting. All that was required was an affirmative vote to allow it. It’s called “suspension of the rules.” It’s listed in Robert’s Rules of Order, which is a directory of what is and isn’t allowed in a governmental proceeding. So, it’s clear that the request for a special proclamation could have been accepted.
But, for some unknown reason, the commissioners are refusing to even consider the request, much less vote on it. Their cowardice is hardly surprising, but completely expected. Let’s remember that the board members are beholden to their county leaders. And given the Republican Party’s well-documented animus towards the LGBTQ+ community, it’s obvious that homophobic and transphobic bigotry is guiding this decision.
Let’s look at recent history. Just last year, the commissioners passed a resolution opposing educational standards established that would facilitate the teaching of LGBTQ+ issues in New Jersey schools. The commissioners ’ resolution states “the revised standards include certain controversial topics on various social issues that interfere with the right of parents to teach their own children about these sensitive matters in a manner that comports with their core family values...” They don’t even have the courage to specify what they opposed! And Commissioner Sylvia (I’m from Newark) Petillo refused at the time to even discuss the topic, claiming “embarrassment.”
Petillo is beholden to The Family Policy Council, a known anti-LGBTQ+ hate group with an agenda of pushing the elimination of non-heterosexual legislation in the name of “family values.”
The Commissioners, aka the Board of Burning Hypocrisy, talk about Sussex County being inclusive, warm and welcoming. But, under their leadership, that hasn’t been the case. It’s time for new leaders in Sussex County.