Pride on the Oval: Milford selectmen OK noontime rally

MILFORD – Selectmen voted Monday night to authorize a gay pride rally at the town center Saturday, but stopped short of allowing 22 rainbow flags to fly around the periphery of the Oval.

People can assemble for a half hour and decorate the bandstand with signs, banners, flags, ribbons, as the town allowed for Red Ribbon Week, but they can’t use the town’s flagpole or the 22 footings around the Oval.

“Authorizing is different from supporting,” said selectman and state Sen. Gary Daniels. “The role of government is to protect people’s right to freely express themselves.”

But allowing 22 rainbow flags to be set in the footings around the Oval would be precedent setting, selectmen agreed.

The footings have only been used for Flag Day, the Fourth of July and other patriotic observances.

The gay pride decorations can be there between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., with an assembly between noon and 12:30 p.m., so that people have time to go to Nashua’s first gay pride rally, as proposed by Selectman Paul Dargie.

Board Chairman Kevin Federico cast the only dissenting vote, saying the authorization could set a precedent that would allow undesirable groups to rally here.

“My opposition has nothing to do with” the LGBT community. “I support it,” he said. “What I don’t want are Nazi flags … I don’t want to say no to white supremacists and get this town involved in a First Amendment” fight.

Several people spoke for and against the proposals, with some saying the board needs to come up with a policy.

After resident Tina Landell talked about “the LGBT agenda,” George Hoyt said a sarcastic thank you to Daniels “for rounding up the bigots,” the chairman cut him off. Hoyt had presented the original proposal for rainbow flags as well as a town proclamation naming June as Gay Pride month, which the board approved earlier this month.

Dargie, who had proposed the 22 rainbow flags at the board’s previous meeting, said he reconsidered.

“I am pretty confident,” he said, that hanging pride flags on the bandstand would be similar to hanging Red Ribbon Week ribbons. But using 22 flags in the town’s flag footings would have been different – “would have been tested in court.”

Nashua’s first Pride Festival will feature a parade down Main Street. The event is set for 2-5 p.m. Saturday.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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