While Vernon Township opted to not fly the Pride flag this June, in recognition of Pride Month which celebrates those in the LGBTQ+ community, the Town Council did adorn the Municipal Center’s front entranceway with a Pride-theme floral display and banner. The town held an official unveiling of the display on June 23, with members of the Vernon Council present alongside members of Sussex County Pride and Vernon’s LGBTQ+ community and allies.
This wasn’t the only recognition of Pride month in the town. The Vernon school district and the Glenwood-Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps opted to fly Pride flags this year.
In a public statement, Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell said, “I am proud of the fact that the Board of Education and one of the EMS services, the Glenwood-Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, in the town in which I live, and in which I currently have the honor of serving as mayor, have demonstrated an act of kindness, inclusion and respect by making the decision to fly the Pride flag during June, which has for the past several years been recognized by presidential proclamation as Pride Month.
“It was my hope and desire that our town’s governing body — that is the Town Council and the Mayor — would join together and play a leadership role in our county, by becoming the first town, the first school district, and the first EMS governing body in Sussex County to collectively fly the Pride flag during the month of June. However, while Councilmembers Shortway and Furrey supported my desire that the Pride flag be flow at our Municipal building during June, this matter was not put on the Council agenda for an up or down vote.”
He went on to say, “While I am not a member of the LGBTQ community, I understand the intensity of these fears and discomforts, because I lived through an intense period in our nation’s history when many in our nation had very similar fears and discomforts about issues related to Americans of my skin color. [...] I truly believe that there will come a day and time in our nation, when we as a collective group of people will be able to also put aside and get over those fears and discomforts of issues related to the Pride flag. But unfortunately, that time is not now, and that day is not today.”
However, he did note that, because four members of the council were in favor of doing something for Pride month, and because his faith tells him it’s not okay to treat or disrespect others in a way he would not want to be treated, as well as other factors, “I chose to act on my own to join with the Vernon Township Board of Education, the Glenwood-Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, as well as a current large and growing number of other governing bodies in New Jersey, by finding a way for our township to also demonstrate an act of kindness, inclusion and respect for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”
That act of kindness this year came in the form of the display outside and inside of the Municipal Center. The display that adorns the Municipal Center was also made possible with the help of the folks at Fox & Bear Lodge, a bed and breakfast on Glenwood Road.