ROWLETT, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A move to recognize Pride Month in the city of Rowlett, Texas is stirring controversy, after several local pastors spoke in opposition to the decision. Council members are now debating not only whether the occasion should be celebrated, but how similar decisions should be made in the future.
“I’m very thrilled and happy to give this proclamation tonight,” said Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian, officially proclaiming June as Pride Month in Rowlett for the first time ever during the city’s June first meeting.
At least three pastors, who heard about plans for the proclamation, attended the meeting to speak against the decision.
“Our city does not need to encourage morals that contradict God and his Word,” said Pastor Cole Hedgecock, of First Baptist Rowlett. “…using our taxpayer dollars, our public property to celebrate someone’s sexual preference and a socially divisive lifestyle of choice,” said Pastor Kason Huddleston of Freedom Place Church, in characterizing the gesture.
Even the meeting’s opening prayer appeared to express opposition. “Male and female, you created them,” said Pastor Brian Hiatt of Cornerstone Church, calling on God’s influence over council members.
Three council members have taken a stance against the proclamation. In emails posted online, council members Martha Brown, Brownie Sherrill and Pam Bell expressed disappointment. Brown also individually confirmed her opposition to KTVT-TV, saying proclamations have not traditionally been used to recognize “controversial” events.
City records show Brown, Sherrill, and Bell requested an item be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting to discuss how decisions are made regarding proclamations, as well as how decisions are made on whether to light the city’s water tower in recognition of a holiday.
According to Brown, in the future, they’d like the decisions to be made by the council, not the mayor alone.
“Council will be considering the creation of a new policy requiring the pre-approval of the majority of Council before proclamations can be issued,” read a statement from Brown. “This pre-approval will also be considered for the lighting of our water tower to support, promote, or celebrate holidays, events, etc. I support this new policy as these recognitions should be decided upon in the same manner that Council makes all of our decisions, by majority vote.”
According to the agenda, any vote on the matter would have to take place at a later meeting. “It lit a fire in me. It hurt me. It hurt me. It broke my heart,” said Myranda Congi, who lives in the city and is a member of the LGBTQ community.
She’s called on residents to rally in response and wants the city to light its water tower with a rainbow, something the city manager acknowledges it had planned to do. “It’s more than just lights. It’s to signify that the LGBT community are safe here, we’re welcome here,” said Congi.
Her social media post on a Facebook page for Rowlett residents received more than 500 comments. “Obviously some back and forth with opposing views, but the first 100 or so comments there was nothing but support, and that really, that really touched my heart… and I know… I know the LGBT community is really wanted here,” said Congi.
More than 400 people have also signed a petition calling for the water tower to be lit for Pride Month. The city manager, Brian Funderburk, blames a mechanical error for the tower flashing random colors on June 1, the first night it was scheduled to display a rainbow. By the time the issue was fixed days later, Funderburk said he decided to hold off lighting the tower until the opposition could be addressed at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We weren’t trying to speak out against anyone. We were trying to speak in favor of Biblical values,” said Pastor Hedgecock. He said his goal was only to make sure those who disagreed with the proclamation had their voices heard.
Should the council chose to celebrate PRIDE month, he said he won’t be angry. “That’s on city council. I’ve done my part. I’m not going to be mad at city council,” said Hedgecock.
Congi says she knows exactly how it’d feel to be recognized on a city landmark. “It’s going to put a huge smile on my face. I know that and I can’t wait to see it” she said.