For LGBTQ+ residents in one of the state’s least populated counties, a Pride Month proclamation has been a source of dignity and joy, making them feel seen and heard. Now, with a new administration in the city of Upper Sandusky, they only feel a crushing blow.
For the past two years, former Upper Sandusky Mayor Scott Washburn issued a proclamation recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ+ residents. The 2020 proclamation noted that LGBTQ+ people in Upper Sandusky still face opposition, “making it important to stand up and show support for our residents who are affected.”
The new mayor, Kyle McColly, appears to disagree. According to an Upper Sandusky resident, McColly has denied a request to continue the tradition with a simple proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month this year.
Brandon Mooney, an out gay man who has lived all his life in rural Upper Sandusky, initially approached Washburn to seek a proclamation in 2019. Mooney said he felt it could have the most immediate impact in Upper Sandusky, a city of less than 6,700 residents. He focused his advocacy efforts on non-discrimination laws at the state level with the Ohio Fairness Act, rather than pushing local government bodies to pass non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBTQ+ residents. Mooney said he felt the proclamation was progress for an ultra-conservative area.
“A proclamation is nice to have, especially in a small town where you might not feel represented or that there are many other people like you,” Mooney said.
On May 10, Mooney emailed McColly asking him to continue the observance in 2021. Mooney had never spoken to McColly, so he introduced himself and shared the purpose and tradition of Pride Month proclamations in Upper Sandusky.
“I talked to him about how important it is, especially for youth, who may have been isolated from their support structures or in a home that doesn’t accept them during this year of the pandemic,” Mooney said.
Mooney said McColly, in a phone call the next day, shared that he is being more selective than the former mayor when issuing proclamations, and Pride Month did not meet his criteria.
“He wouldn’t share his criteria,” Mooney said. “He did share that he’s denied other proclamations, but he wouldn’t name them. … When he shared that he did a proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I asked him, ‘How did that meet the criteria and how does this not?’ He was cordial and respectful, but he held firm.”
Mayor McColly did not respond to The Buckeye Flame’s requests for comment. This article will be updated with a response if one is received.
The online petition asks supporters to contact the mayor’s office to respectfully demand that McColly reverse his decision. From the petition:
For many in our community, (the Pride Month recognition) has been not only a source of pride, but also a heartwarming note for themselves. Whether they’re older or younger, many in our community benefit from this simple show of support.
The decision of the new mayor to refuse to issue a proclamation is damaging, Mooney wrote in the petition. “To have that support taken away is a punch in the gut to the youth who live in homes that don’t accept them, the elderly too afraid to be themselves and the many allies in the community who support us.”
The petition calls for McColly to “clearly explain his ‘selective’ criteria and why that criteria does not include members of the LGBTQ+ community in Upper Sandusky.” In the end, Mooney’s goal is for the Upper Sandusky Mayor’s Office to reverse its decision and recognize Pride Month this year and every year.
At the time of publication, the petition had garnered 114 signatures, and has garnered comments from signatories reflecting the importance of the proclamation:
My son is part of the LGBTQ community in Upper Sandusky. It has meant a lot to him and our family that the mayor has recognized Pride Month here in Upper Sandusky. By NOT continuing with this, the new mayor is ignoring a part of the community and saying they don’t matter.
I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Upper Sandusky. Having a pride declaration is all that made me feel welcomed after I was hate-crimed numerous times. It felt like it meant someone was on my side. Now I’m not sure if the community is safe in any way if it’s being run by someone who is ok with being complicit in their constituents having hate crimes committed against them.
© 2020 The Buckeye Flame. Reprinted with permission from The Buckeye Flame.