Tuesday, November 29

Pride Month proposed in small Ohio city; accusations of “grooming” followed…from within the City Council

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City Councilmember Stefanie Hawk’s goal was simple: designate June as Pride Month in Cheviot, a city in west-central Hamilton County, less than 10 miles northwest of Cincinnati.

“Everyone is welcome in Cheviot,” Hawk said. “It’s not just the LGBTQ+ community, but everyone. And this resolution helps recognize that.”

Cheviot City Councilmember Stefanie Hawk

The resolution Hawk proposed noted the contributions and struggles of LGBTQ+ people and culminated in the designation:

The City of Cheviot hereby declares June 2022 as “Pride Month” to provide an opportunity for our residents to learn about the discrimination and inequality that the LGBTQ+ community has experienced and continues to experience; and to celebrate the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.

Hawk said she received boilerplate language in April from Cincinnati Pride outlining the basics of a Pride Month resolution and had planned to bring the resolution straight to Cheviot City Council.

Although she expected that the item would be referred to a sub-committee, she still wanted to get the resolution on the full council’s agenda just in case they wanted to approve the standard language outright without running it through a committee.

“I consulted with the law director and was advised that I could place the item on our agenda, as is my right as a member of council,” Hawk explained. “So I e-mailed the clerk to get that done.”

In the interim, fellow Cheviot Councilmember Brian Smyth took to the internet to share his anti-LGBTQ+ thoughts.

Enter: The Smyth Family

Hawk has served as a city councilmember since July of 2021 when she was appointed to fill an at-large seat. At the time of her appointment, she was running to represent Cheviot’s Ward 3, an election she lost in November 2021 to Smyth.

Also on council: Brian’s cousin, Kerry Smyth, the Cheviot Council President. Additionally, Brian’s brother Steven Smyth was elected to City Council in 2021, but was unable to be sworn in due to a conflict of interest with a federal position he had accepted.

Brian Smyth, Cheviot City Councilmember (left) and his cousin Kerry Smyth, Cheviot City Council President

Brian and Kerry Smyth post daily and publicly on social media: sharing MAGA and ultra-conservative memes, articles from conservative news sites, and various conspiracy theories.

Kerry Smyth is an ardent peddler of the 2020 election theft narrative, championing the “2000 Mules” movie by right-wing filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza who pled guilty to election fraud in 2014.

Brian Smyth is a purveyor of almost-daily conservative and transphobic posts. In a recent, highly-publicized example, he used a transphobic slur, and after being confronted on its use, he doubled down on his language in a wide-ranging Facebook rant.

The presence of the Smyth cousins looms large on social media.

“People are definitely aware of what they post,” Hawk said.

Brian’s Sounds Off

In his role as Council President, Kerry Smyth did indeed assign the Pride Month proclamation to a committee to be approved, a standard procedure before an item makes it to the full council for a vote.

In this case, the resolution was assigned to the Internal External Affairs Committee, which Hawk chairs. Brian Smyth also serves on that 4-person committee.

In advance of that committee’s May 24 hearing, Brian Smyth posted on Cheviot’s page on Nextdoor, a hyperlocal social networking app for neighborhoods.

Smyth’s Nextdoor post was a “call to action,” declaring that if the Pride Month proclamation were approved “there will be half naked debauchery led parades in the streets as well as replacing the American flag with the rainbow flag.” He also called Pride Month “part of the grooming process for our families and children” and that “it has to stop.”

Brian Smyth’s Nextdoor post

The Buckeye Flame reached out to Brian Smyth for comment, and this article will be updated if any response is received.

May 24 Committee Meeting

The Internal/External Affairs Committee meeting on May 24 played to a packed house with more than 80 people showing up to witness this first legislative step to approve Pride Month in Cheviot. According to Hawk, around 80% of the people present were there to support the resolution.

Cheviot community members in attendance at the May 24 Internal/External Affairs Committee meeting

She said that people were aware of Brian Smyth’s anti-Pride Month post, but that he went in a different direction when he spoke.

“When it was his turn to talk, all he wanted to talk about was how he beat me in the last election, which he called a ‘landslide victory’ in a very low turnout race,” Hawk said.

Security had to escort out one man who refused to stop questioning people who spoke in favor of the Pride Month resolution. Hawk had to gavel the meeting to order several times.

Ultimately the Pride Month resolution passed out of the Internal/External Affairs Committee by a vote of 3-1. Smyth was the lone vote in opposition.

Sharing Their Reactions

The Pride Month resolution now heads to a full Cheviot Council vote at their upcoming meeting on June 7.

The Smyth cousins have both shared their reactions on social media.

Brian Smyth said he was bullied at the May 24 committee meeting, and made clear his intentions for the June 7 vote:

I will vote no because of the divisiveness that this brings to our society. If you could look beyond the hate and anger you would see that Christians absolutely love who you are not what you do.

In a Facebook post on May 24, Council President Kerry Smyth called Hawk’s Pride Month resolution “an attack on Councilman Smyth” and that “it’s BRIAN who has his finger on the pulse of Cheviot residents.” He further wrote that “the LGBTQ community is losing popularity lately” and that they can be “the worst bullies you will ever encounter in your life.”

Regarding the June 7 vote, he posted, “I believe the best thing to happen is for this resolution to be indefinitely tabled (not voted on at all).”

For her part, Hawk is insistent that she is trying to present the 1.2 square mile city of Cheviot in the best possible light. She feels that elected officials like the Smyth family put forth a hateful presence on social media that prevents officials from doing the work they need to do to make Cheviot a better place to live, visit, and operate a business.

“Symbolism is important,” Hawk said. “From families to business owners, people here in Cheviot want a resolution like this to pass to honor the inclusiveness that makes Cheviot the special that it really is.” 🔥

Ignite Action: 

  • The Cheviot City Councilmembers and their e-mail addresses can be found here. Reach out and make your feelings known on the importance of Pride Month. 
  • Check out the more than 70(!) events listed in our 2022 Ohio LGBTQ+ Pride Guide.

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Ohio Pride Month Declarations: One Quiet. One Messy. Both Passed. - The Buckeye Flame

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