The city of Maple Heights voted down a resolution on Wednesday night to declare the month of June 2021 as LGBTQ+ Pride month.
The proposal was brought forward by out Councilperson Richard Trojanski.
“Pride Month is an entire month dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQ voices, the celebration of LGBTQ culture, and support of LGBTQ rights. I believe our LGBTQ community members in Maple Heights should know that we support them,” Trojanski said during the meeting before the vote.
The motion on Wednesday was an emergency declaration, meaning the resolution would immediately take effect, pending approval from Mayor Annette Blackwell. The motion was defeated by City Council with 3 yes votes (Anderson, Jones, and Trojanski), 1 no vote (Agee), and 3 abstentions (Madden, Ostenson, and Shenett).
No explanation was provided by the four who did not approve the emergency declaration with the exception of Councilwoman Edwina Agee who stated that she wanted to distribute a survey to the residents of her District 7 to “see how they feel.”
“Until I talk to residents, I will not be voting on that,” Agee said during the meeting.
A review of recent minutes from the Maple Heights City Council did not reveal any instances of Agee creating or distributing a survey in response to a proposed resolution.
Recent resolutions passed include:
- Designating Maple Heights Clean-Up Day
- Designating June 2021 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in Ohio
- Approving the 2021 Paint the City Program
- Designating April 2021 “Fair Housing Month” in the City
Agee did not respond to The Buckeye Flame’s multiple requests for comment specifically on the wording of her survey and her criteria for when she decides to poll her constituents on a resolution.
Following the defeat the resolution, Mayor Blackwell used part of her “Mayor’s Report” to descry the actions of Councilpersons voting against the motion:
I just can’t sit here and not speak to the legislation that my colleague Councilman Trojanski put forth. We propose MLK Day which is already a national holiday, but yet we propose legislation anyway. We propose something for muscular dystrophy, and I understand why. We propose a resolution for breast cancer awareness month and we approve it, because these holidays are important or they have some significance to the person proposing the legislation. This is something significant to [Trojanski]. I don’t think [the vote] was fair and it was not kind. Either we support all of [these resolutions] or we stop approving them altogether. I can’t sit here as a person in good faith and see us do something different. We need to really think about how we are treating each other. Stop introducing things that feel good to you if you’re not going to do it for someone else.
During their individual reports, some members of the City Council responded to the Mayor’s comments:
- Agee, “I respectfully disagree with your comparison of health, race and sexuality.”
- Madden, “I try to vote my conscience and for me to lie down and sleep at night feeling like I did the right thing. My religious belief is my religious belief and no one is going to knock it down.”
- Shenett, “Sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling.”
During his report, Trojanski expressed his disappointment with his colleagues.
“In 2021, the LGBTQ community should not feel invisible,” said Trojanski. “As elected leaders, we should be allies. It’s sad and disgraceful that we can’t come together as leaders to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table.”
The Buckeye Flame spoke with Mayor Blackwell after the meeting, and she explained that she was not able remain silent after she saw the vote.
“As a Black woman who is the descendent of slaves, I know about the importance of equality and freedom,” sad Blackwell. “This was bigger than LGBTQ life. It speaks to diversity and inclusion and who we are as a city.”
Blackwell also shared her view that the vote was at least partially motivated by personal bias.
“This was some of them attacking the lifestyle [of Trojanski],” said Blackwell. “They made it about his behavior as the only openly gay person on Council.”
Trojanski shared a similar sentiment with The Buckeye Flame.
“I think part of this has always been personal as some of them just don’t like me,” said Trojanski. “They have been nonexistent on LGBTQ issues. They have never done anything for the LGBTQ+ community here in Maple Heights.”
An earlier draft of the resolution proposed flying the rainbow flag at City Hall during the month of June, but Trojanski said he removed that language after receiving pushback from city officials.
“Their reasoning was, ‘If we fly the rainbow flag, what happens if someone wants to fly a black lives matter flag, or a blue lives matter flag, or the confederate flag,” explained Trojanski.
The effects of Wednesday’s vote were felt across the LGBTQ+ community in the Cleveland area.
“I was shocked to learn that the city of Maple Heights was unsuccessful at passing a resolution to acknowledge the historical and present day significance of LGBTQ Pride,” said Phyllis Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. “I hope that LGBTQ residents of Maple Heights find affirmation and comfort in knowing that they can lift their voices and celebrate their lives via Pride celebrations in local cities and neighborhoods throughout greater Cleveland. We have Pride. We will see you in June! “
Trojanski will be bringing the resolution back to City Council at their next meeting on June 2, after Pride Month has already begun.
“This isn’t over,” said Trojanski. “It’s not about me personally. It’s about taking a stand for all of the LGBTQ people who live in our community.”
- Contact the Maple Heights City Council in advance of their June 2 meeting to let them know your feelings on declaring June Pride Month.
- Reach out to LGBTQ+ individuals and allies (particularly those residing in Maple Heights) and tell them to do the same.