Teaneck Council Refuses to Fly the Pride Flag

It was a disheartening afternoon for some 50 residents and many others in Teaneck to learn that Council at an overflow meeting refused to raise the Pride Flag on the township Green. Yes, Council members read a Pride Month Proclamation, but they issue many such proclamations which are heard by those in the meeting but not the public at large. A proud flag flying on the township Green would have been a symbol to all who live here, work here, and visit here that Teaneck is an inclusive and diverse township which welcomes LGBT people. It was not to be.

Council members claimed that it was not their fault because they got little notice of our request. Shouldn’t leaders lead or are they only followers? They said they were fearful that they would then be forced to fly other flags, including from hate groups. They referred vaguely to some NRA California lawsuit wanting to raise its flag – a suit that other lawyers doubt exists. Such liability concerns did not stop Governor Murphy nor 14 nearby towns from showing their pride. Larry Bauer, an early supporter of the cause, put some blame on residents, pointing out that he drove through Teaneck and saw only one such flag in front of a house. 

Mayor Hameeduddin admitted the Council had “dropped the ball.” He proposed setting up some vague 90-day commission to study the matter and offer suggestions – a tried-and-true sure-fire way to skip over a request and even to deep-six it. He offered little comfort in saying, “Hopefully we will do it better next year.” Residents were not pleased with a vague promise.

There has been precedent of allowing a speaker to represent Sen. Weinberg and to read a statement following a council proclamation. When Caryn Diuguid rose to read Weinberg’s statement the Mayor wanted to peruse it first and insisted he would read it. The public booed him. Caryn retrieved the statement and read it later during “Good & Welfare.” The letter pointed out that people from Teaneck have been in the forefront of the fight for LGBT rights, and requested the flag be raised. 

The Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee had issued a resolution requesting a raising. In addition, Felipa Bernard later read a letter sent to the council from a Teaneck resident who could not be here. “I am a gay Muslim man married to a gay Catholic man. Today we are raising a gay flag on our home but tomorrow we are going to Englewood to celebrate because Teaneck Council is not showing much support. There are still people who need to be protected.”

Comments and pleas during “Good & Welfare” to the Council were frequently moving. Some comments were sharp such as the individual who said, “When election time comes around I am going to remember you, and I am not going to vote for you. And I’m going to tell others not to vote for you. ” Another person raised an alarm about the high suicide rate among these adolescents. Below is a sampling of what others said. 

  • Barbara Giarno: A past President and long-time member of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG): “I have a gay son. I can say for our children and adult members that seeing something that represents them and supports them means something to them. That is what the flag symbolizes.” 
  • Judy Distler: “We are the people of Teaneck who care about everyone. Are you with us this year? Next year is something else. Let’s do it now.” 
  • Amy Moran from the Teaneck High School with two student members of Spectrum – the Gay-Straight Alliance founded in 1995 – explained their mission and their annual ALLY event where students sign a pledge with various promises to aid LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff.
  • Lynn Chaikin: “When I moved to Teaneck I was proud to be in a diverse town. But how do people hear about this diversity? The answer is with a flag. Pride is not a country nor a political party. It’s a concept, an opportunity to celebrate. It’s about love, equality, inclusion, civil rights, people who are marginalized, and much more.”
  • Dr. Barbara Toffler: “I bring wishes from our daughter and our daughter-in-law who are hoping that they will be a part of making this flag fly in Teaneck.”
  •  Micki Shilan: “There is still ignorance in this town. One person told me that by flying the flag all the gays will start coming her.”
  • Paula Rogovin: “Setting up a commission is just a delaying tactic. Put up the flag now.”
  • Debbie Eliahu: “I talked with my children early on about sexual orientation knowing that adolescence is a difficult time and that for LGBT’s it is even more difificult.” 

In spite of acute disappointment and anger after the meeting, community members are already strategizing about what to do next.  LGBTQ individuals and their family and friends have a history, like other sometimes marginalized groups, of perseverance, determination, seeking solutions, and taking action. 

NO Pride Flag here.

OTHER COUNCIL MATTERS 

  • Serious traffic concerns on Park Ave. 
  • An investigation committee set up by the the Mayor to consist of council members to investigate the actions of the council, its lawyer and a private resident involving the extra billing of $250,000 and delay for the potty-plex. So there is to be no independent investigation, only council members and its lawyer investigating themselves. Isn’t that special. Alan Sohn said, “The council lawyer has been telling us for months he has proof positive as to who caused this added cost. Now he will pick up extra billing to create a McCarthy-esque witch-hunt.”
  • Shop owners on West Englewood Ave. who were not informed in advance of a street fair there which hurt their business. 
  • After arousing much interest for several weeks on the part of residents, the Council the night before postponed the review of the Open Space & Recreation Plan to the next Council meeting on July 9.

For the Agenda Outline, Packet, and Video of the entire June 18 meeting go here.

Comments (8)

  1. Nancy Robinson

    I hang my head and pray for change. The town I always wanted to live in, raise my family, has let me down on this issue.

    I’m so sad Teaneck is such a great town, let’s keep being a great place to live with everyone, accepting everyone differences.

    Reply
  2. Sherrie Golden Johnson (Thaler)

    We chose to live in Teaneck because of its diversity, respect and support of people’s rights.

    Proudly, let’s fly the flag!

    Reply
  3. Laraine Chaberski

    My husband and I chose to move to Teaneck because of its diversity. The church we belong to was chosen because of its commitment to diversity. Teaneck is becoming less diverse and the decisions made by the town council less transparent.

    I am deeply disappointed in what Teaneck is becoming.

    Reply
  4. Larry Bauer

    First off, I am writing this note as an individual citizen and not as the president of the Teaneck Chamber of Commerce or any groups, organizations or committees in which I am involved. I was very pleased to see such a wonderful turnout from our community at the recent Council meeting and want to THANK YOU all those that attended the council meeting to show your support of Teaneck and all of its people.

    As I began to read this article, I was rather disappointed that it took on a negative tone with the very first sentence.

    Feel how you want about our councilmembers that is your prerogative. Many of you, I am sure know at least one of the council folks and have somewhat of a good relationship. If that were the case, it was not shown yesterday. You bunched them together and made them all look like the bad guys. If this was what you intended and had planned from before arriving at the meeting you already set the tone as well as closed your mind and should have in fact look at yourself in the mirror.

    I was approached about doing something about two months ago, possibly even more. I couldn’t, especially not on my own — I too have a life, a full plate and have given an awful lot back to the community in many more ways than one, YET when the opportunity arose and I had a meeting with Councilman James Dunleavy together with my counterpart Jennifer Glass regarding Chamber business on the evening of June 3rd, when our chamber business was over, the question of recognizing Gay Pride month was proposed. At that moment, Councilman Dunleavy saw the need and wanted to act on this matter immediately and wanted to get it before the next council meeting on June 18th which was just a few days away. Have you ever seen Council work on an issue with such speed? Just before our meeting ended, Jim wanted to know if we had a gay organization in Teaneck, which we did have at one time and which spawned other groups, but I mentioned the best person to reach out to was Bill (Orr) who Jim knew and asked if I could connect them both, which I did immediately after Jim left. Bill then reached right out to Jim. I had suggested to Bill to also reach out to a few folks just as did I.

    Other things came into play as I was trying to do what I could to maintain stability and balance on both sides anticipating the potential outcome, hoping to look at the bigger picture – opening a door, opening dialog and seeing that the occasion is treated with the respect and the full dignity it deserved. There are many stakeholders involved each with their own unique experience, issues and organizations and to hastily put something together would have been a disservice to the entire community. We only know what we want to know, and how it affects us individually. Have you any idea how being LGTBQ individuals were treated in white communities, Asian, African, African American, European, Latino, etc? I hope you get the point.

    To keep this short, let’s fast forward to the council meeting itself. The Township admitted they clearly dropped the ball, they clearly stated that they want to do this all correctly and have something that we could truly be proud of. For the folks that clamored that for a diverse community, we were not diverse because we not going to raise the Rainbow Flag. The Gay rights movement is not about The Rainbow Flag. The flag is a symbol, key is education, understanding, bringing people together when we have that, we will have the flag, a symbol, very much like the Yellow Star of David for the Jews of NAZI Germany or the Pink Triangle in NAZI Germany.

    We have a proclamation that is fully supported by all council members. The door was opened, the stage was set for dialog, we are moving forward, so I thought.

    Granted there was an incident at the beginning that could definitely have been handled better, but was addressed later in the meeting, and the presentation probably at a more appropriate time. While raising of the rainbow flag was at this particular moment in time not on the table, and while members of the council attempted to explain their position as well as their desire to do this commemoration properly for next year, the attacks and veiled insults just kept being hurled. I for one would have loved to see the Rainbow Flag being raised, but I would have preferred that it was on a nice sunny day, with a full complement of our local state and federal representatives in attendance together with the different groups and organization, it would have been nice to have representatives of our clergy in attendance as well. Council also saw the potential of future fall-out. I, for one, do not wish to see any group or organization that is hate-based on whatever level you like to have any legal claim that would permit them to do so. Likewise, if it is true that the flagpole outside our municipal building was donated by our Veterans, it would be only appropriate to ask for their permission first. If anyone was listening, our public schools had Pride programs. What left me lost and disappointed was the fact that while we were all on the same page some were selfish in their desires, others were practical and wanted to be sure that what we will do will be the best and in the right fashion. Instead of embracing the first step forward we reduced ourselves to something that I found to be most disappointing.

    And finally as I had expressed at that meeting, why hadn’t anyone else ever brought this up before Tuesday’s meeting? All those that are so proud, why was there really only one prominent rainbow flag flown at home? Were you ashamed before, but once in a crowd you could come out attacking? This is NOT the way it should be. We ARE better than that. So I hope that now that we made the first steps, instead of dividing who we are, let’s come together.

    At the end of the meeting I volunteered to be on the committee that was discussed and today I also reached out to try to get a potential program going weather or not I will actually be on that committee, but will certainly share the plans that were discussed for that time next year when we really WILL do a proper and memorable Gay Pride Celebration. For the person that lambasted the need for yet ANOTHER USELESS COMMITTEE and one that delays results, similar to the Patriotic Observance Advisory Board, think about it, Annual Gay Pride celebrations are just going to magically happen? Wouldn’t a committee make more sense to properly plan such an event? Again, you came to this meeting with only ONE thought, RAISE THE FLAG!

    Anybody that knows me, and I think many of you do, know that I am a worker, I get involved, don’t give lip service, I work to get things done and I do not give up easily.

    Like Bill, I too was a past president of the Gay Activist Alliance of New Jersey (GAANJ) after Bill, a member of New Jersey Buddies, worked on the Help-Line operated by GANNJ out of St Mark’s Church and took a strong stance in Oct 1990 against GMHC (Gay Mens Health Crisis – GMHC,org), soliciting money from folks in New Jersey in support of their organization, happily taking our money yet not noting in their literature that the services provided were only for NY residents. Another letter was sent in March 1992 to the then executive director of the organization. We made the push for New Jersey gay community to support such New Jersey organizations such as New Jersey Buddies and the Hyacinth Foundation.

    So, what I ask now is to amend what was written to better reflect the warmth and empathy we have in the Pride Community, the fact that the first steps have been taken, that we will ALL work together and that we will have a celebration that properly commemorates all those that have been persecuted, murdered, shunned and celebrate family, love, support and the many contributions that folks of the LGBTQ community have made to our community, country, to the world and the understanding that we are a diverse community, a rainbow of colors not just a flag, but people with so much in common.

    Reply
  5. Gtc

    It’s not that difficult to raise a flag…you just raise it. Several paragraphs of explaining on wanting to get it right, at the right time, that would have been your first step…one of your neighboring town’s council just raised the flag, no discussion needed…they get it!

    Reply
  6. Gtc

    It’s not that difficult to raise a flag…you just raise it. Several paragraphs of explaining on wanting to get it right, at the right time, raising the would have been your first step…one of your neighboring town’s council just raised the flag, no discussion needed…they get it!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Teaneck Pride - Teaneck Today

  8. Steve Molaf

    Regarding the flag issue, while not quite the same, I add this in to show the ignorence, stupidity and intolerance, that started with me when I returned to my first year at Teaneck High. Fast foward to the Christmas padgent, just before we left the Christmas holiday, first mistake, sitting on an Aile seat. They start singing “The HalLielujah Chorus”. Everybody stands except me. I’m sitting in my seat, being respectful, but still sitting.
    Who walks up, at that time, a Sub, who if you were in school from 60 to 63, we use to call him, NO Neck, Canigleo (hope I came close to correct spelling). Back then, I had not dropped my quasi religious beliefs but had just started becoming The Rebel Without A Causes. No neck tells me to stand and show respect. I counter, not my belief but I’m showing my respect by sitting quietly in my seat. He said get up or get to Princeapal’s office, so I get up and he thinks I’m listening to him but gets blown away when I walked out to Ms. Hill’s office. What made it worse, the school’s shrink, an old family friend, told my mom to appologies. I lost its.

    Now how does this relate? Simple, there were schmucks 45 years ago and 45 years later they are still here. Take a page from us babyboomers. Get a few of the braver soles, grab some few flags, wait n dark, and hang the flag, take pictures, send to the Record and all local TV news stations. When city freaks and takes its down, do it’s again and again and again till the Council finally gets the message.

    Just a thought!!!

    Steve Molaf

    Reply

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