Edgecomb selectmen move closer to approving June ‘Gay Pride’ decree

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 8:45am

There will be no Gay Pride banner on Edgecomb’s flagpole. There won’t be an official proclamation, but there will be some sort of official recognition of June being “Gay Pride” month in Edgecomb. On May 14, selectmen reached a consensus to recognize June as “Gay Pride Month” by adjusting a request made by Byron Cortez of  East Boothbay.

This spring, Cortez approached Southport, Boothbay and Edgecomb selectboards with his proposal to celebrate “Gay Pride Month” with an official proclamation, hanging the Pride banner from the municipal flagpoles during June, and painting a “rainbow-colored” crosswalk. 

Selectmen Mike Smith and Michael Maxim tabled Cortez’s request last month because they wanted their third board member, Lyn Norgang’s input. At the April 30 meeting, Cortez, again, made his request in person. Smith had concerns April 30 about placing the Pride banner alongside the American flag or on the town hall. He was open to seeking other ways to recognize “Gay Pride Month.”

May 14, selectmen discussed ways to incorporate the celebration’s goals into a proper municipal event. Smith proposed placing the banner on the nearby Edgecomb Town Hall sign on Town Hall Road. Maxim offered to “edit” the proclamation’s wording, and all three selectmen agreed on painting a rainbow-colored crosswalk for the town’s June 22 road race. Still, Smith said he was challenged from the moment he heard about the peninsula-wide “Pride” celebration. 

Smith told Cortez he struggled with how a municipality should handle such a request. “The proclamation I’m challenged by. I don’t know if small towns need to make proclamations. It’s not a subject we would have promoted,” he said. “To be honest this isn’t my ‘A’ plan. I’m troubled by a small town government and how our views are supposed to be all-encompassing without recognizing anybody except to recognize everybody. So when we start recognizing specific groups, I get outside my comfort zone.”

Maxim is in his first year as a selectman. He is also openly gay. He supports the board’s actions, and praised Cortez for his leadership. “This conversation should’ve happened a long time ago. The fact it took someone to move here is kind of sad, and also great,” he said. “I would love to see some sort of recognition. I think that it’s great to acknowledge this in Edgecomb.”

Cortez has one selectboard remaining to contact. He is scheduled to speak during the May 28 Boothbay Harbor selectmen’s meeting. He previously received approval from the Southport board to fly the Pride flag and approve a proclamation without any edits. He didn’t receive approval to paint a crosswalk because the town doesn’t have one. Boothbay rejected flying the Pride flag and issuing a proclamation, but offered to allow Cortez’s group to use Boothbay Common or hang banners from the lamp posts for a celebration.

Cortez has lived in the U.S. since 1990 after seeking asylum from his native Guatemala. He is married to Elliot Schwartz. The couple first visited the peninsula in June 2021, and decided to make East Boothbay their home in March 2022.

He plans on making future June Pride Month requests. “I thought Boothbay’s suggestion to use the common and lamp posts was excellent, and something we intend to pursue next year,” he said. Cortez also praised local selectboards’ responses and interactions during the process. “I didn’t know what to expect coming from Guatemala and Boston. They all listened and took my request seriously for which I’m extremely grateful.”