(First published in the July 25, 2019 issue of City Pages)
After two hours debating a reconsideration, Marathon County upholds its Pride Month resolution
A crowd of supporters for Pride Month react Tuesday when the county board decided to not reconsider the declaration, meaning Pride Month remains in place.
The Marathon County Board last month passed a resolution declaring June as Pride Month in the county. That wasn’t the end. Shortly thereafter, some county board supervisors called for reconsideration of that resolution.
Members voting to bring it back say they received numerous phones calls, emails and messages from angry constituents about the Pride Month declaration. There weren’t new arguments. Complaints mainly rehashed points made weeks earlier—that the resolution elevated one group above others, that it designated an entire month, and that people cited religious reasons for not supporting it.
So a proposal to reconsider Pride Month came to the board, and on Tuesday, after two hours of debate and some procedural stickiness, the Marathon County Board voted down the reconsideration 20-17. June will remain Pride Month in Marathon County to recognize those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ).
More than 100 people flooded the county board chambers Tuesday night as they had in past meetings about the resolution, many with signs or shirts signaling their support for the LBGTQ+ community. Because the issue was held at the board’s business meeting, not its Thursday education meeting, there was no public comment period, and requests by county supervisor Katie Rosenberg of Wausau to let six of her constituents speak at the meeting were voted down.
The reconsideration was proposed by Sup. Gary Beastrom, who said he wasn’t coerced by anyone into bringing it forward. Instead, he said, after voting in favor of the resolution in June, he received so much backlash from constituents that he felt he needed to represent them by calling for a reconsideration of Pride Month. Beastrom represents the village of Athens, as well as the towns of Berlin, Bern, Halsey and Hamburg, in western Marathon County.
Supervisor Jeff Johnson, after arguing that the motion was out of order according to Robert’s Rules of Order, told the board that the backlash and headlines were a bad look for a county. Supervisor Ka Lo told the board a reversal of Pride Month would have a negative impact on economic development, because of the impression it would make on young professionals seeking employment in the community.
Wausau Regional Chamber of Commerce President Dave Eckmann echoed those sentiments in the chamber’s June newsletter, in which he said, “The world we live in today and forever more, requires all of us — our community — to be inclusive — to welcome and support diversity.” Consultants with TIP Strategies, which worked on the chamber’s economic development strategy, also expressed in stark terms the need to embrace diversity.