Advocacy Group Urges Greenwich to Keep Pride Flag Flying

Karsten Vagner, a co-leader of Greenwich Pride, speaks during a Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 14, 2023.


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GREENWICH – An LGBTQ advocacy group pleaded with local officials on Thursday to ensure the pride flag’s place on town flagpoles amid newly proposed guidelines, but no action was taken.

Under a flag policy introduced in August, the only flags allowed to be flown on town-owned property would be those of the United States, Connecticut, Greenwich, diplomatic countries and any others approved by the first selectman or Board of Selectmen. Each January, the board would vote on a slate of flags to display that year.

But at the board’s Thursday meeting, a leader of Greenwich Pride asked officials to consider grandfathering the pride flag into the slate, without requiring an annual vote from the board. 

Karsten Vagner, a co-leader of the group, said public opinion of the LGBTQ community often fluctuates, and putting the pride flag up for debate each year leaves its fate far too uncertain.

“I’d hate to see Greenwich ever in a situation where, sometime in the future, we don’t approve pride one year because a few loud voices in our town made it too difficult for this board to vote to fly that pride flag,” Vagner said.

Vagner acknowledged that the current board supports flying the pride flag, but reminded them of a recent controversy in which signs that read “Groomers” with an arrow pointing to the flagpole were placed at Town Hall just hours after Greenwich held its pride flag raising event in June.

To protect the pride flag no matter current public opinion, Vagner said, the board needs to approve its place on town-owned flagpoles in perpetuity.

“Pride should not be up for debate. Neither should Juneteenth or St. Patrick’s Day or the Betsy Ross flag on the Fourth of July. These are our celebrations. These are what make us who we are, and you all have the opportunity to enshrine that for the future of this town,” he said.

But Republican First Selectman Fred Camillo said whether the board requires the annual vote is not “that big of a deal.” He said the January meetings would serve as an opportunity to consider new flag requests, not to debate those that the town has previously flown.

“The whole point, I think, was any new ones would come before the Board of Selectmen to discuss,” Camillo explained.

Democratic Selectwoman Janet Stone McGuigan said she understood the need to vet new requests, but questioned why the board wouldn’t retroactively approve flags previously celebrated by the town. 

“Any flag that we have already raised is approved,” Stone McGuigan said. “I don’t think we need to vote going forward.”

In addition to Pride Month, the town flew flags for various organizations and causes like Hispanic Heritage Month, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Greek Independence Day this year. 

Creating a list of preapproved flags, Stone McGuigan argued, would simplify the proposed policy and the approval process moving forward.

At the end of the discussion, the board agreed to take a vote on the flag policy at its next meeting and consider approving historically flown flags in the meantime. 

If the board chooses to adopt the policy at the end of the month, Greenwich will become one of about half a dozen Connecticut municipalities with its own flag policy. Notably, the Board of Selectmen in Darien approved a policy banning all but the federal, state and town flags in November, garnering opposition from LGBTQ advocates.