Wilmette, Community

Supporters of Progress Pride banners visit Wilmette commission meeting to counter opposition

Supporters of the LGTBQ+ community and Progress Pride flags gave a spirited retort in front of the Wilmette’s Human Relations Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 16, a month after the commissioners heard from adversaries of the flags and the Village’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

More than 30 people were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, which led officials to change locations from the training room to the council chambers at Village Hall.

Of the 21 people who spoke during the commission’s public comment section, 12 of them shared support for the Village of Wilmette’s Pride support. Since 2022, Wilmette has displayed Progress Pride banners throughout the Village in June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month.

This year, opponents of the banners have been speaking out, including at the March 19 HRC meeting when all 10 public speakers asked the commission not to support the flag. Some of the comments against the initiative included intolerance toward the transgender community. The Record is choosing not to amplify these comments; however, they are accessible via an audio recording of the March 19 meeting.

Following the March meeting, Village President Senta Plunkett affirmed Wilmette’s support for the LGBTQ+ community and said the banners will be displayed again this June.

Many of the speakers on April 16 who supported the Progress Pride banners said they were parents of children who identified as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Katie Hauser said two of her four children identify as queer, and her oldest child uses they/them pronouns. Hauser said when her oldest saw the Progress Pride banners in Wilmette last summer, they told her, “I wish those were around when I was young, because I might not hate myself so much.”

“I hope that everybody in this room that has trouble with a flag never gets a call from their child saying, ‘I might not make it till tomorrow,’” Hauser said as her voice broke. “That’s happened to me more than once, and if a rainbow flag can make somebody feel that they’re more accepted, I don’t know what the problem is.”

Amanda Nugent, who has also spoken at New Trier High School board of educations meetings in support of the LGBTQ+ community, said she is the “proud mom of a gay and nonbinary transgender kid.”

Nugent called the language used by opponents of the Progressive Pride flag at the March 19 meeting “hurtful and hateful.”

“It is very emotional, as a parent of a trans kid, to know that there are people in the community that would call me a child abuser, that would call my kid sick or perverted,” she said.

At one point, Nugent’s comments were interrupted by someone in the audience who said, “Excuse me? Hateful?” when she described the tone of the previous meeting’s language. Assistant Village Manager Erik Hallgren said discussion among the audience was not allowed during public comment and Nugent continued without interruption.

Cindy Fey called herself an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and said she does not understand why some opponents concern themselves with what goes on in someone’s private life and the personal decisions they make.

“Unless we see ourselves threatened by someone else, let’s all mind our own business. Let’s MYOB,” she said. “Most of us do. We live and let live.”

Some Progress Pride flag proponents said that they want Wilmette to continue focusing on diversity and inclusion efforts, while others said their LGBTQ+ children knew they were part of that community from a young age and were not influenced by books or other media.

Like the March HRC meeting, some spoke against the Progress Pride flags.

Betsy Hart, who also spoke at the March meeting, reiterated Tuesday that she and New Trier Neighbors — a local conservative group that has regularly criticized equity work and spread anti-LGBTQ+ messages — “are advertising and advocating for diversity.

“All of us in Wilmette want safe communities where we are free to express our viewpoints and identities and where we feel welcomed,” she said. “Every resident, business, religious establishment and otherwise must have freedom of expression and this must be respected and protected.”

She later said New Trier Neighbors opposes DEI efforts and continued advocating for Wilmette to display a religious freedom flag that she pitched to Village officials.

While he didn’t address the flags and the commission did not discuss them Tuesday, Hallgren did acknowledge that Wilmette will be purchasing more American flags, which will be displayed on Memorial Day and throughout July in response to community feedback.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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