Dear editor,

I spoke Thursday night at the Marathon County Board meeting. As I was laying waste to the lies and rhetoric some of our county supervisors are hiding behind to defend their eventual votes on the Pride Resolution, a fire alarm conveniently went off, causing us to evacuate the building and interrupt the important message being shared. Because of that, I thought I’d share some of that message here.

I write here today as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and on behalf of my LGBTQ+ family members who have left this community because there is no space for them.

Over the last week, we’ve heard many excuses being made for these supervisors and for the bigotry that’s been put on full display. We’ve heard that “Pride Month is dividing people,” that pride month is going to “increase AIDS and drug use in the county” that “everyone just respects everyone already.” None of these things are true. As mentioned in my speech on Thursday night, you can’t just say something irresponsible and expect it to hold weight in the debate. I’d expect our county supervisors would know better, however, upon hearing some of them speak, I’m not so sure anymore.

What we do know is that 2017 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community, and it’s expected to continue to rise. That statistic alone should be enough to end this discussion and confidently say that Marathon County should be one of the proud counties that can say “You are safe here.” Instead, we’ve given a voice to some of the most hateful opinions (especially at the Thursday board meeting) and our LGBTQ+ community has been forced to sit through the rhetoric because they’re trying to stay engaged in this discussion. All the while, our county supervisors have let it happen.

We also know that 3.8 percent of Marathon County’s population identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, almost 5,000 current constituents. Why is that when a resolution like this (which only impacts them) comes to the table, our supervisors feel the need to get the opinion of everyone else? By proclaiming June as Pride Month, we aren’t taking anything from anyone that disagrees. It literally does not impact their lives in the slightest.

This has been a no-brainer decision from the beginning and our County Board has shown their density once again by not being able to make a simple decision on this. We promise to hold them accountable. Even if this proposal passes, the harassment, rhetoric and behavior that the folks in our LGBTQ+ community have endured because of this “discussion” that the supervisors insist on having, is completely unacceptable.

It’s embarrassing that in 2019, we even have to have this discussion.

It’s embarrassing that our LGBTQ+ community has to fight to simply be recognized.

It’s embarrassing that I have to keep telling our leadership how to do their jobs.

For as long as I am here, I will fight like hell for our LGBTQ+ community to have their fair share of space in Wausau and Marathon County. If you’re reading this, I hope you will too.

Ben Lee of Wausau

Editor’s note: The views of our readers and guest columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot and Review. To submit a letter, email us at editor@wausaupilotreview-newspack.newspackstaging.comor mail letters to 500 N. Third St. Suite 208-8; Wausau, WI 54403.