Residents in a central New Brunswick village are seeking an apology from officials who allowed a “straight pride” flag to be raised in the centre of town.
The appearance of the flag, which was taken down after almost a full day, was met with outrage from some residents, but the man who helped raise it says it wasn’t meant to hurt the LBGT community of Chipman, a village of some 1,100 people, about 60 kilometres east of Fredericton.
Chipman resident Glenn Bishop and 11 others met over the past few months to find ways to show support for straight people.
“We are not against the gay pride people at all,” Bishop said. “I’m not against gay people; anybody’s sexual preference is their choice.”
Bishop told CBC News he went to the mayor about two months ago and asked to fly the flag.
“He said, ‘Sure we represent all groups of people,’ and I agree with that,” said Bishop.
The flag — which depicts interlinked male and female symbols on a background of black and white horizontal lines — has been raised by some conservative groups in the U.S. in response to gay pride events.
Less than half an hour after it was taken down, Bishop arrived and asked “Who took down my flag?”
Members of the LGBT community who were standing there said, “We did,” and an altercation ensued. Bishop argued that he never meant to offend anyone and that they were being “sensitive.”
Others said he didn’t understand how the flag makes light of the struggle of being gay or non-binary.
“You’re against them by putting the flag up,” area resident Mat Miller told Bishop.
“There’s no such thing as straight pride.”
Miller said he’s happy to see the flag is down, but he still expects an apology from the mayor and council.
Mayor Carson Atkinson has not yet responded to a request for comment from CBC News.
‘Privilege and anti-minorities’
The village council said Sunday’s flag raising was meant as a show of support to “all groups in our municipality and to respect everyone’s right to freedom of speech.”
“No harm or hate was intended in any way as we pride ourselves on Chipman being a diverse and vibrant community,” the council said in a statement.
“This flag distraction is a lesson for us and for other rural communities such as our own.”
The unanimous decision to raise the flag followed the village’s first raising of an LGBT pride flag in June, the council said.
Council said the backlash included “personal attacks and threats” against councillors.
‘It’s scary in this day’
When Margaret Clark first saw pictures on Facebook of the flag waving in the heart of the village, she said she felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach.
“It’s just like they created a time machine and they put us back 10 years,” said Clark, who lives in nearby Minto.
“To put up a straight pride flag is almost like putting up a swastika. It’s scary in this day and age — it’s 2018.”
It crushes my heart, because I love my son just as much as they love their kids.– Margaret Clark, Minto resident
Clark called the flag a “symbol of hatred” and said it reminded her of when her son Chad Kelly, 34, was teased at Minto High School for being gay. In high school, he was even punched in the face for being gay and came home with a black eye.
In Grade 11, the teen was bullied so much that he moved to Prince Edward Island, where he finished high school. Clark said her son came out to her about two years later.
Today, he lives in Munich, Germany, with his husband and works as a client manager at Louis Vuitton. He has never returned to Minto, near Grand Lake.
“It crushes my heart, because I love my son just as much as they love their kids,” she said of the people who put up the flag.
Although she feels most people in the area support the LGBT community, Clark said there are a few who don’t.
“It represents hatred …. ‘We’re going to show them that us white, straight people are better,'” she said of the flag-raisers.
‘Atrocity waving in the wind’
Justin Fudge is gay and has lived in Chipman for more than eight years.
On Sunday, he felt personally attacked by the straight pride flag that was raised in the community.
“We’ve push so hard to get the Pride flag raised in this little village, with a very small LGBTQ community, and all of a sudden this atrocity is waving in the wind,” said the local hair stylist.
As a sign of protest, he drove around the community with a giant Pride flag that he attached to the antenna of his car.
Now, he hopes council will apologize for putting the flag up in the first place.
“I want to make it known that I wasn’t putting up with that today,” he said.