Pride image

Despite rain, some of it heavy, an estimated 200 people stopped by the Pride festival on Saturday, June 17, the Rainbow Commission wrote in an email the next day.

For three hours at Whittemore Park, participants enjoyed food and music, with tunes spun by DJ Dee. 

Attending were numerous public officials, including School Committee Vice Chair Paul Schlichtman and members Liz Exton, Laura Gitelson and Jane Morgan. Schlichtman offered public remarks about the committee’s unanimous June 15 approval of its LGBTQIA+ resolution.

 Pride fest  Dog  Schlichtman  Laura Gitelson

From left, School Committee member Jane Morgan, School Committee member
Liz Exton’s dog, School Committee Vice Chair Paul Schlichtman and School
Committee member Laura Gitelson.

School Committee resolution

The commission refers to the resolution as a "first-in-the-Commonwealth" document, noting it commits to having policies in place by the fall ensuring that all teachers and staff use the name and pronouns of transgender and nonbinary students without the need to show any medical documents and that trans/ nonbinary kids can participate in school sports according to their gender identity.

The newsletter says: "While elected officials elsewhere in the country, and in some parts of the Commonwealth, exhibit an unhinged hatred toward transgender and gender diverse children, school leaders in Arlington are forging a different path to ensure that every student from K-12, including those who are LGBTQIA+, experience belonging, growth, and joy in our schools."

Welcomed to the festival were Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth and Select Board members Steve DeCourcey, Len Diggins and Diane Mahon. Helmuth delivered remarks about the progress made during his lifetime for LGBTQIA+ rights. He said that when he participated in his first Pride march in the 1980s, he risked the loss of his job. Two decades later, in his run for Select Board, he said, voters viewed the marriage to his husband, Jordan, as positive.

Helmuth also praised the work of the Rainbow Commission on behalf of the town, noting its evolution since 2017 as a group that largely existed to plan Pride events, to a well-established town entity that is doing deep work with the schools, police department and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and other leaders employed by the town to advance LGBTQIA+ equity in Arlington.

Police presence

Also present were three police captains -- Richard Flynn, Sean Kiernan and Brendan Kiernan -- who attended with Town Manager Sandy Pooler. Earlier in the month, Flynn assisted with traffic control during Rainbow crosswalk paintings held in Arlington Center, East Arlington and Arlington Heights. Kiernan was also at the crosswalk painting in Arlington Center directing traffic. He oversaw the project to wrap the Arlington Police Department’s off-road “mule” in the colors of the progress Pride flag, which you can learn more about in the department’s Pride month press release.

Select Board Chair Eric Helmuth, Arlington police captains Sean Kiernan, Richie Flynn and Brendan Kiernan;
the off-road "mule" and Council on Aging social worker Marci Shapiro-Ide.

Older adults

Council on Aging social worker Marci Shapiro-Ide helped with setup and breakdown and also ensured that older members of the town’s LGBTQIA+ community were at the festival.

Those involved welcomed Willa Taber, who wrote a moving opinion piece for YourArlington about the need for gender-inclusive human growth and development curriculum in elementary school, and how if she had grown up in a more welcoming society, she might not have had to wait to transition until she was 70 years old.

Also welcomed was another older LGBTQIA+ adult who came out four years ago, in her early 70s, thanks in part to the tremendous support the Council on Aging provides.

Jill Harvey, town director of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Teresa Marzilli, town community outreach and engagement coordinator, also dropped by. They were instrumental in supporting the group through all of the logistical details required to make Pride in Arlington possible.

Also present were Arlington Human Rights Commission Cochair Christine Carney and HRC commissioners Rajeev Soneja and Melanie Brown.

This news summary was published Monday, June 19, 2023, based on information from the Rainbow Commission.