Community responds to pride proclamation with pushback and applause

Jun 22, 2018

Sayora Van Reed shows off her pride clothing.
Credit Renee Gross, KBBI News

Last week, Mayor Bryan Zak declared pride month in Homer. Three city council members did not show up to the proclomation, saying that even though they don’t have anything against the LGBTQ community, they find the reconition to be divisive.

Some in Homer are applauding that decision, but others wish all council members showed up and supported the proclomation. 

Sayora Van Reed lives in Homer but she was at band camp in Anchorage when her mom called her to tell her about Mayor Zak recognizing Pride Month.

I was super excited because that day I was having a hard time,” she said.  

Reed identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and she said on the day her mother called, she was being bullied because of it.

“Kids were saying pretty rough stuff,” she said. “I was upset because I was giving up music dreams and stuff like that because I was being bullied.”

Reed says seeing LGBT pride always brightens up her day—it makes her feel validated and excited that she’s not alone.

So Reed was thrilled by a proclamation that encourages people to show support for the community, with flags, a parade and a month of recognition celebrating the contributions of LGBTQ individuals.

But not everyone in Homer shares Reed’s enthusiasm.  The idea of a designated pride month makes residents like Ralph Crane uncomfortable.

“People here don't believe government has any business in the bedroom,” he said. “I happen to be in that camp. I don't believe that. I think that's risky, very risky. When government starts dictating morality or perceived morality, that's dangerous territory.”

Crane believes that putting out a proclamation is courting trouble in a community that’s recently been divided over politics.

The risk is controversy, is community controversy, is community unrest,” he said.

Last year, Homer was engulfed in a divisive battle that started when a dispute over inclusivity spiraled into accusations of government misconduct and an effort to recall three members of the town council.

Now, some worry a whole new national issue could once again split apart the town. Councilmember Tom Stroozas was one of the three councilmembers who did not attend the proclomation last week.

But he said his concern went  beyond just rhetoric. He said he was worried about a physical fight breaking out.  

“I was trying to avoid a potential confrontation between two opposing sides,” he said. "It really bordered on safety. I think we avoided a potential firestorm last night.”

Besides a comment from a man driving by the proclamation yelling “Shame on you, Mayor Zak!” there wasn’t any action last Monday night.

Instead, the real fight was on social media, where some worried that hostile comments might translate into violence in the community.

Anna Germundson is concerned about that and she’s turned off by the fact that in years past, people shouted negative comments at the pride float in the July 4th parade.

She doesn’t think she’ll attend the first pride parade this year.

I may actually go fishing,” she said.It’s not worth the stress. I don’t want to deal with it.”

But the decision is hard. Germundson doesn’t want to give her daughter the wrong idea.

“I'm trying to raise  her with an the idea that's it's OK to have gay parents, and I don't want her to think that I'm giving up on her, because I’m not. I just don't want to deal with it,"  she said. 

Germundson and her partner agreed there are things they like about Homer. But they wish feeling safe and fully accepted was one of them.

The Homer Pride Parade will be on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love Park on Pioneer Avenue. The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be on Monday, June 25.  

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the timing of the controversial resolution last year and it's nature. It was introduced in February of last year and it promoted inclusivity.