(First published in the June 27, 2019 issue of City Pages)
After two hours of procedural chaos, the Marathon County Board officially names June to recognize the LGBTQ community
Cow Full Length Isolated On White Background. Spotted Black And White Cow Standing In Front Of White
June is now Dairy Month and Pride Month in Marathon County.
Several hours before the county board met Tuesday to vote on whether or not to recognize June as Pride Month, a substitute resolution was introduced calling for a Diversity and Inclusion month instead. In other words, something more broad to eliminate any reference to people who are gay and/or transgender.
That got voted down, but a few key components from it were added to strengthen the original resolution. In the end, June is now designated as Pride Month in Marathon County, joining the long-standing recognition of June Dairy Month.
The original resolution called for Pride Month to recognize the county’s LGBTQ+ residents (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) and the discrimination they’ve faced here and abroad. June is Pride Month nationally and coincides with the Stonewall Riots in New York, a major turning point in civil rights for gay Americans.
Audience members were visibly relieved that Pride Month passed the Marathon County Board Tuesday.
But the substitute resolution eliminated any mention of LGBTQ+ members and pride. County Board Chair Kurt Gibbs said Tuesday that he worked on the substitute version to satisfy both those in favor of Pride Month and those who weren’t. Leading up to the Tuesday vote, county board supervisors received lots of emails and calls: Many constituents questioned why the county should designate a whole month as opposed to a day, or were concerned that this resolution would elevate one minority group over another.
The county has done many similar designations in the past without controversy or discussion: Indigenous Peoples Day passed unanimously in May of this year; Hmong Veterans Memorial Day passed last month; plus a slew of other proclamations including Suicide Awareness Month, and Work Zone Awareness, and Mental Health Awareness Month.
Chairman Gibbs put more weight into how the county should consider Pride Month, which he ultimately supported. “A resolution without action is hollow, and no action is unacceptable,” Gibbs said Tuesday. That didn’t sit well with proponents of the resolution, who said similar resolutions recognizing minority groups didn’t require any sort of bar related to action, nor did they garner much controversy.
County Supervisor Jeff Johnson of Wausau, who was supportive of Pride Month, told the board the broad, substitute version was a bunch of fuzzy, let’s love everyone. “It’s unfocused,” Johnson said Tuesday.
Supervisor Bill Miller of Rib Mountain, who voted against Pride Month, called the overall effort a “feel good” resolution that doesn’t change anything. That drew a groan from the audience.
The board chambers remained packed Tuesday night, as the public patiently sat through presentations and procedures, multiple amendments, and a process convoluted enough that one supervisor accidently voted against Pride Month despite her obvious support during the meeting. The declaration passed 20-15 (actually 21-14 because in the procedural chaos one supervisor accidentally voted against the resolution).
On an amendment by Supervisor Katie Rosenberg, two sections were lifted from the substitute resolution and added to the original. Those sections call for education sessions for the county board on minorities and marginalized groups, and calls for a public engagement process to help make the county more welcoming. Rosenberg says LGBTQ+ people have been fearful of losing jobs, lost jobs, have been cussed out on their wedding day, and harassed, which is why this recognition is important. “We’re talking about standing with our sisters and our brothers,” Rosenberg says.
Instead of an outburst, audience members appeared relived when the resolution passed, clapping after a few moments had passed.