NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Two weeks after the board of supervisors refused to pass a “Love is Love Day’ in the township, pressure from a number of area LGBTQ+ supporters turned the tide at a packed March 11 board meeting.
As a result of nearly an hour-and-a-half of public comment, the board decided to revive the defeated resolution from the Feb. 26 meeting. With some fine-tuning, the supervisors unanimously approved the new measure supporting the LGBTQ+ community, especially it young members.
Unlike the failed original document which would have established Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s, as “Love is Love Day” in the township, this resolution does not designate a specific day each year, but instead it calls attention to the LGBTQ+ community.
Last month, the original measure had been defeated in a 3-2 vote not because the supervisors had rejected LGBTQ+ rights, but rather the three nay votes, Chairman Phil Calabro, Kyle Davis and David Oxley, did not support designating a special day for “Love is Love.”
“I support the notion,” Davis said at the time, “But I’m not fond of the idea of a specific day for a specific group. That’s exclusionary.”
Meanwhile, Supervisors John Mack and Dennis Fisher had voted for that resolution, which was sponsored by Mack.
But this time around, Supervisor Davis, along with the others who originally opposed the resolution, did an about face after Supervisor Mack tweaked original document, removing the designated day.
The language was changed to commemorate only Feb. 15 this year as “Love is Love Day,” specifically highlighting the “Queer Prom” which was held in Doylestown. The event was sponsored by Planned Parenthood Keystone’s Rainbow Room, a non-profit which helps LGBTQ+ youth.
The resolution did not designate any future “Love is Love” dates, which several supervisors had objected to last month.
More importantly the township’s overall support of LGBTQ+ rights was retained, especially in helping protect vulnerable young people and recognizing their rights.
The supervisors’ unanimous vote elicited thunderous applause from the crowd.
Last month, Supervisor Mack had said he thought changing the resolution would defeat its purpose.
However after speaking to residents and garnering further input, he now agreed to modify the measure.
In protest, many of the LGBTQ+ supporters accused the board of being so-called “haters” in turning down the original resolution. Most of them were teens from area high schools, some of whom publicly acknowledged being gay.
“I’m not a hater,’ Supervisor Davis said before the amended resolution came up for a vote, “I’m completely in support of this resolution.”
Davis noted that he did not expect such “blowback” from the board’s previous vote.
Chairman Phil Calabro agreed, saying that board members are not “haters,” but instead were advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, as they have always been.
Many in the crowd sported T-shirts and held signs supporting LGBTQ+ rights. Several of them also held up a huge multi-colored “rainbow” flag behind the speakers at the podium.
Among the protesters was former supervisor Linda Bobrin, who left the board earlier this year to assume her new role as Bucks County Register of Wills, claimed that she was “perplexed” by the supervisors' decision last month to reject the measure.
According to Bobrin, this was especially troubling in light of the supervisors passing a specific anti-discrimination ordinance which included expansive township protections for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as establishing a township Human Relations Commission.
Also in attendance was State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D-10), one of the sponsors of a similar state resolution in Harrisburg which recently failed to reach the legislative floor for a vote.
He chastised the supervisors for rejecting the original Newtown Township resolution.
“We have other days for other groups in our society,” he pointed out, stating that the LGBTQ+ community must “take their rightful place in our country and a have the same rights as other people.”
One of the more than 20 people spoke out in support of recognizing “Love is Love Day” was Marlene Pray, director and founder of the Rainbow Room in Doylestown, which held the “Queer Prom.”
Pray, a former Doylestown Borough council member, said that the event, which was held on Feb. 15 at the Michener Art Museum, was a rousing success for all those who attended.
“[This resolution] sends a message specifically to them that they are loved and that they matter,” she stressed.
“It can even save lives,” Pray claimed, pointing to the high suicide rate and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals.