The first pride event in Harford County will be held in Havre de Grace in mid-June.
Presented by PFLAG, Together We Will and St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride event, set for 3 to 7 p.m. in Concord Point Park, is envisioned as a family friendly event.
“It’s designed to bring the LGBTQ community together and to raise diversity and send a message of inclusion,” said DeLane Lewis, president of the Harford County/Upper Chesapeake chapter of Together We Will. The organization advocates for social, racial and economic justice, according to its website.
Saqib, McCaffrey and Clayton were among the seven “books” scattered around tables in a conference room Saturday at the Havre de Grace Library, where readers moved from one to the other to “check them out” every 15 minutes.
In her three years as president of PFLAG — Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — Yvonne Matthews has learned that LGBTQ youth and adults “many times are very uncomfortable, unwelcomed and lost and hiding in our county,” she said.
“This allows the LGBTQ community to mingle among themselves but also among allies — their family and supporters.”
Details of the event have not been worked out, but Matthews said it will include a DJ, storytime and support groups, and they’d like to have a “promenade on the [Havre de Grace] Promenade.”
The event will be during Pride Month and has been scheduled so it won’t conflict with other celebrations in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore or Annapolis, Matthews said.
The Havre de Grace City Council voted 5-0 at its meeting Monday night to approve the groups’ event application, despite a suggestion from one resident to limit the attendance of children.
While organizers say it’s a family friendly event, William Watson said matters of sexual identity discussed publicly should be age-appropriate to “treasure the innocence of youth and safeguarding of children.”
“Allowing small or pre-pubescent children to celebrate and be educated on matters of sexuality should not be encouraged or allowed by this council,” Watson said. “It’s not a phobic reaction to this celebration, it’s a sober, common -sense reaction based on protection of young, impressionable minds.”
Delicate matters such as sexuality should be left to the discretion of parents, not “left to the whims of those who seek to indoctrinate or infiltrate young impressionable minds,” Watson said.
He suggested containing the pride event by fencing to control the entrance and exit of young children.
City council members, however, enthusiastically supported the event as it’s proposed.
“I am very pleased that we have an organization willing to step up and organize something that has been in our hearts for a long time,” Councilwoman Casi Tomarchio said. “It says a lot about the people where we live and the future of our community, and I think it’s all good. I am proud to be a supporter of this.”
The event will be a wonderful opportunity to embrace everyone in the community and let them know there is a safe place for them in Harford County, she said.
A father to two small children, Councilman Jim Ringsaker said he’s not concerned about bringing his kids to the event.
“This event will be a hallmark event for our city, something that hopefully we can have year after year and can bring awareness and a feeling of safety in our community, and respect, and understanding,” Ringsaker said. “I think my children are hopefully mature enough to understand and decide on their own.”
Councilman Jason Robertson said it’s about time such an event is held.
Since Maryland Legal Aid lawyer Rashad James filed a complaint Tuesday with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office about discrimination by a deputy, the firm representing him has received additional calls about other incidents of discrimination in the county.
“We should recognize all of our citizens and allow them to be who the are, and embrace them and love them just as they are loving themselves,” Robertson said. “This isn’t really so much a political event, as much as any other ethnic event in my mind. This event is just for people being proud of how they are.”
Mayor William T. Martin, offering congratulations, said he always wanted to live in a city of freedom.
“I always feel like the inclusiveness in Havre de Grace is our passion, diversity is our strength in this city,” Martin said.
The mayor’s brother died 25 years ago from AIDS, and he had to hide his lifestyle most of his life, Martin said.