Getting it right and wrong

The Milford selectmen got it right when they voted not to allow a rainbow flag to fly on the town’s flag pole on the Oval. They also got it right when the agreed to designate June as Gay Pride Month in the community.

But getting the Oval pole issue right doesn’t mean there is no way for the town to show a Pride flag.

In Manchester, for instance, a Pride flag is flying at City Hall and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig told the Union Leader’s Katie McQuade that any community in Manchester can raise a flag at City Hall. They just need to contact the city clerk to make arrangements.

Left unsaid was how the city would deal with an offensive flag, say from a white supremacy group, but we think there’s a common sense ways to handle that: just say no.

Could Milford not do something similar? The town could hang a flag from Town Hall. Even a small flag at the Town Hall entrance would show support for the town’s LGBTQ community and obviate the concerns of Selectmen Gary Daniels and Mike Putnam who believe that the Oval flag pole should be strictly for patriotic flag displays.

Daniels was right when he said that to allow a rainbow flag on the Oval would signal that the flag pole was available to just about anyone who wanted to fly a particular banner.

“There is no way that subsequent requests could be denied,” he said.

Daniels was also right when he said this was not a First Amendment issue. Any group could use the Oval as a place of assembly, although we hope some discretion would be used, again in the case of something like a white supremacy group.

We disagree however, on two points:

Daniels said that the American flag and flagpole on the Oval signify “true American unity.”

And he, and Selectman Mike Putnam, said that flying a gay pride flag would be a desecration.

Given the state of race relations in this country, “true American unity” doesn’t seem to be endemic. Maybe it’s true in Milford where, Putnam said, “I’ve never known this community to be anything but welcoming,” but try telling that to black people in Milwaukee or other cities where black people — including kids — have been gunned down by police officers.

And saying the gay pride flag would desecrate something is far too harsh. About what other flag would Daniels and Putnam have said that? It’s one thing to insist that the Oval flag pole should be reserved for the flag of our nation, but using such a word as desecrate could be interpreted as a prejudicial view of gay men and women. We’re sure it’s not, but public officials need to be conscious of the words they use.

We would like to buy Selectman Paul Dargie’s argument that, with Pride Month being world-wide, flying the pride flag would show Milford as being inclusive. Yes, it would, but, as we said, there are other places to show the Pride flag if the Oval pole is deemed to be exclusively for the American flag.

The idea for flying the flag, and for issuing a proclamation naming June Gay Pride Month in Milford, came from George Hoyt, a 2017 graduate of Milford High School. He didn’t get the flag, but he got the proclamation. Hoyt, who should be proud of his efforts, also told The Cabinet in an email that he disagreed with the desecration assertion. “I believe it does quite the opposite,” he wrote, especially with respect to veterans who are honored on the Oval with the World War I monument and, of course, the flag and flag pole.

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