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For the first time in its history, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week to proclaim June as “LGBTQ and More Pride Month,” reports the Prince William Times.
The passage of the proclamation continues a trend in recent years that has seen the governments of suburban counties in the D.C. area recognize and honor their LGBTQ communities.
The proclamation, which passed on Tuesday evening, was noteworthy because it generated intense debate on both sides of the issue, but also because it passed on a 5-3 due to support from half the board’s Republican caucus. Typically, such proclamations have only been passed by boards in Democratic-dominated counties and independent cities.
“Personally, I believe Prince William County is a forward-thinking, compassionate, thoughtful community and is ready to respect all of our residents, including those whose sexual orientation and gender identity fall within the LGBTQ community,” Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge), the sponsor of the resolution and one of only two Democrats on the eight-member board.
Proclamations of this type are largely ceremonial, and do not change county policy or obligate the board to provide funding for LGBTQ causes. But it does demonstrate a measure of progress and level of tolerance for LGBTQ people who live in the county.
“It shows that while we might not agree with each other, we can declare that we can appreciate each other and welcome everyone into our community,” Supervisor Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) said.
Other supervisors voting in favor of the measure included Vice Chairman Marty Nohe (R-Coles), Maureen Caddian (R-Potomac), and John Jenkins (D-Neabsco).
In total, 21 community members testified in favor of issuing the proclamation, arguing that it served as a gesture of goodwill toward LGBTQ residents, while nine spoke against the measure, feeling it was divisive, singled out a particular community for praise to the detriment of other groups, and was offensive to those with religious beliefs that oppose homosexuality.
“I don’t find it unifying,” Supervisor Ruth Anderson (R-Occoquan) said of the resolution. “I find it separating and alienating.”
Just two years ago, the Republican-dominated Loudoun County Board of Supervisors defeated a similar proclamation on a narrow 5-4 vote, with many in the GOP arguing that issuing proclamations to honor specific groups was both “divisive” and outside the scope of the board’s authority. They insisted that the board should only concern itself with local issues like taxes, roads, transportation, schools and economic development, and pushed to disallow any and all proclamations from being issued by the board in future years.
Most notably, Chairman Corey Stewart, now the Republican standard-bearer in the U.S. Senate race against U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine this fall, voted against the resolution without saying a single word on the topic.
The board also voted unanimously to reaffirm a 1996 resolution declaring the county as a “hate-free and bigot-free zone.” The measure says the county is a place that “fosters unity” among all residents regardless of race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity.
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