Everything at the Jefferson Township gazebo–from the cloudless sky to the comfortable temperatures to the people standing around in small groups chatting amicably–everything about Saturday June 13 had an air of hope and promise. Amidst that hope came the raising of a rainbow flag in honor of LGBTQ+ citizens.
Christine Clarke, chair of the Jefferson Township Democratic Committee, told The Jefferson Chronicle that when she was running for NJ state assembly, she promised her supporters that she would commit to raising a flag to honor LGBTQ+ citizens. Even though she didn’t win the assembly seat, she wanted to keep the promise.
“I was beyond grateful to (Jefferson Township mayor) Eric (Wilsusen) that he said yes to us having this ceremony,” Clarke said.
“It’s so important to bring the community out to celebrate Pride Month,” Wilsusen, a Republican, said. “Even though we are in difficult times, due to the pandemic, we wanted to be able to gather for this moment. And the gazebo is the perfect place for it, because it is the gathering spot in Jefferson, and the best place to remember that we stand in solidarity against hate.”
The ceremony began with Pastor Amanda Rohrs of Hurdtown and Lake Hopatcong United Methodist Church leading a prayer. This was followed by an a capella rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by JTHS student Lily Snow.
“I’m so excited to be here,” Snow said. “This is a wonderful thing for our town, and it will make the gay community very happy.”
Snow’s song was followed by words from Cara Parmigiani of Morris County Pride.
“It’s hard to celebrate in the current climate, but it’s important to remain hopeful,” Parmigiani said. “We can’t let our spirits be crushed by the adversity of hate.”
Republican Township Council President Kim Finnegan was also at the event, saying that this is a very important cause to her.
“My brother and my best friend are gay,” she said. “People are people. I’m proud that this community is so loving, caring, and dedicated to this cause.”
Republican Councilman Jay Dunham noted that, “Today is a day for all peoples of all race, color, creed, and sexual orientation. We need fairness and justice for all, just as the constitution of our great country asks of us.”
While this year’s celebration was small due to the limits of the pandemic, the town will host a bigger celebration next year. There will be a Pride Day at Central Park of Morris County on September 5, with food trucks and entertainment. There will also be a virtual pride parade on June 17 at 7 p.m. For more information, visit Pride Parade 2020 on Facebook.
The flag will remain in place for the rest of June, pride month. Residents are invited to take selfies with the flag and post them with the hashtag #JeffersonPrideFlag.