By Shereen Siewert
A sharply divided Marathon County Board of Supervisors spent more than an hour discussing a proposal to declare June ‘Pride Month,’ a resolution that members will vote on Tuesday.
Dist. 36 Supervisor Bill Miller called the resolution the “craziest thing” he’s ever heard of and called for a referendum to allow voters to weigh in on the matter.
And despite the resolution being posted in the same manner as other previously approved resolutions and extensive media coverage, Dist. 17 Supervisor E.J. Stark said his constituents felt the resolution was being rushed through without proper notice. Further, Stark speculated that the county could be forced to spend up to $1 million to install gender neutral bathrooms down the road.
“Don’t walk into this thing saying it’s free because it very well might not be,” Stark said.
But Dist. 11 Supervisor Alyson Leahy pointed out that members passed two declarations last month with no public debate, no referendum and little to no dissent.
“It’s very telling that we’re having this discussion, with this tone,” Leahy said.
Dave Nutting, who represents Dist. 3, called for the resolution to be renamed “respect” month to indicate support for everyone in the county rather than singling out the LGBTQ community. Doing so, Nutting said, would not weaken the resolution but would strengthen it for all people of the county.
“What is the fear?” asked Ka Lo, who represents Dist. 5 and also on the Extension, Education, and Economic Development Committee, which moved the resolution forward.
Ashley Lange, who represents Dist. 9, read a number of comments received from online news stories that degraded members of the LGBTQ community — calling them perverted, mentally unstable, and shameful — and asked the board to consider how they would feel if some of those comments were directed at their own loved ones. She also presented data on suicide rates among non-heterosexual students in schools as she made her argument in support of the resolution.
“Those comments that I read are just a small sampling of what’s there that any of those kids can read,” Lange said. “I’m a parent. I would never, ever want my child to go through this. Human rights are not an exhaustible resource.”
Supervisor Jeff Johnson, of Dist. 6, urged support for the resolution as written to send a positive message.
“If we don’t pass this resolution you might as well draw a line around Marathon County and say you are not welcome here,” Johnson said.
The board will make a final determination during their meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 at the Marathon County Courthouse, 500 Forest St., Wausau.