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Mayor of Connecticut town defends banning Pride flags

Mayor calls prior policy “discriminatory allowing one group & no other. We’re going back to basics; that way, there’s no threat of a lawsuit”



Republican Mayor Ken Nelson of Enfield, Conn. (Photo Credit: Ken Nelson)

ENFIELD, Conn. — A pro-LGBTQ+ rally is planned Monday night on the town square of the blue collar, northern Connecticut town of Enfield, whose new mayor is defending a recent vote to reverse the existing policy allowing Pride flags on town property. 

“We’re going back to basics; that way, there is no threat of a lawsuit,” said Mayor Ken Nelson. The Republican gave an interview Monday to WTIC-TV in Hartford, Conn. as he stood beside the Town Hall flagpole flying the U.S. flag. “The greatest flag on the planet is that flag right there, and that is the most inclusive flag there is, and we respect that, and what’s great about that flag is if you disagree with me, you have a right to protest, to rally, or to leave the country.”

Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community organized the rally to protest the new policy, 

passed two weeks ago by the newly-elected Republican majority on the Town Council. 

At that meeting, council members voted 6-5 to pass the resolution, with all but one of the council’s Republican members voting in favor of reversing the existing policy enacted in 2022. Opponents say the resolution specifically targeted Enfield’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

“They just don’t want anything to do with gay pride,” Councilor at Large Cindy Mangini told reporters following the vote earlier this month. “To dismiss people’s feelings and beliefs is wrong,” she added.

Councilor At-Large Gina Cekala, who also voted against the measure, accused the Republican majority of directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community and Pride flag. “I think the real reason is you don’t want that Pride flag up on this Town Hall,” she said, “which is absolutely disgusting.”

“The way they see it as targeting, I see it as it’s a discriminatory policy allowing one group and no other. How can you say that’s not discrimination?” said Nelson. “Enfield is all-inclusive, 100 percent, and we support all groups.”

While it does not specifically mention Pride flags, the new policy prohibits any flag other than the U.S. flag, the Connecticut state flag, the MIA/ POW flag, or the flags of the military branches from being displayed or flown on town-owned buildings and flagpoles.

“This flag policy is solely about the Pride flag,” said Enfield resident Christina Tetrault, who spoke against the resolution during the Town Council meeting before the new policy was approved. “How do we know this? Because it’s been the only flag that was hung on town property outside of the normal government flags. For the past two years, there have been zero negative incidents at the raising of this flag that would even suggest you needed to take immediate action on it.”

Tom Tyler, the interim town attorney, claimed at one point during this month’s Town Council meeting that if the Pride flag was allowed to be flown, “ISIS could come in and want to display one, the IRA…basically anybody. You’d have to be content neutral and let everybody.” Tyler also accused schools of trying to indoctrinate students with “transgender ideology.”

The rally is set to take place prior to another meeting of the Town Council, and Nelson applauded those LGBTQ+ groups in Enfield that are encouraging residents to display Pride flags on their personal property. 

“Certain council members that are speaking tonight,” he told WTIC-TV, “they don’t have a Pride flag on their house, so I would say probably start with practicing what you’re trying to preach and put the flag up on your own property because everyone has a right to their opinion but the government should stay neutral,” said Nelson in the television news interview broadcast on Monday.

Republican leaders of a neighboring town, Suffield, banned Pride flags on town flagpoles in 2021, and this month proposed a slew of new regulations that critics say stifle free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and the right to public assembly. 


“That’s hugely problematic, but also it seems very directed,” said Suffield resident Annie Hornish in public comment Wednesday before the board. “It’s directed at a certain group,” she said, meaning the LGBTQ+ community. 

“At no point does this policy infringe on any First Amendment rights. It is designed to better protect the Town and its assets. Anybody can use the Town Green. A policy would simply give guidelines for use,” said Republican First Selectman Colin Mol in an interview with the Hartford Courant.

Enfield’s Town Green Policy, which is codified in the town municipal code, served as the model for Suffield’s draft, according to Suffield Town Attorney Derek Donnelly.

Anti Bias, Anti Racist Suffield, the group that founded Suffield’s Pride event in 2021, this month launched a social media campaign to accuse the Town of Suffield of “beginning to roll-out its fascist plan to get Suffield Pride off of the town green.”

Jill Adams, the ABAR Suffield Pride organizer and a member of the ABAR board, issued a statement to the Courant: “The biggest question I had was why the green? Why now? … What is the vision here?”

“There’s an overreach here, and this is not just about Pride at all,” Adams said. “Why are we questioning using open green, clean space for people to enjoy the town, to take pictures with their family, to have a picnic, to sit with a friend, to have a conversation?”



Connecticut town council votes to ban LGBTQ+ Pride flags

Greg Gray, president of Enfield Pride, encouraged residents and businesses to display Pride flags in the wake of the town’s decision



Photo courtesy of Enfield Pride

ENFIELD, Conn. – The Enfield Town Council voted 6-5 Monday night to only allow the U. S. flag, the Connecticut state flag and military flags to be displayed on any town properties.

The town of 44,466, located 18 miles North of the capital city of Hartford, has a newly-elected Republican majority council which in the council session effectively banned the Town Hall from displaying Pride flags during Pride Month in June, reversing a 2022 policy that allowed the flags to be displayed.

NBC News Hartford affiliate WVIT 30 reported that during the discussion over the display of the flag Tom Tyler, the interim town attorney, argued that allowing the flag to be displayed would create a scenario where: “ISIS could come in and want to display one, the IRA…basically anybody. You’d have to be content neutral and let everybody.”

NBC 30 also noted that Greg Gray, a local pastor and president of Enfield Pride, encouraged residents and businesses to display Pride flags in the wake of the town’s decision.

“I am disturbed that the new Republican majority felt this was a decision they needed to make basically on day one of them coming into office,” Gray said.

Brandon Jewell, local advocate and activist for LGBTQ+ people and their families, spoke against the vote.

“The meaning of buildings, that you can’t be inside any town-owned property…so that’s the schools where many of the teachers have safe space stickers on their doors, they have Pride flags hanging,” he said. “I think there should have been more thought into this before it was actually put on the agenda.”

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Connecticut police investigate bomb threat to Pride Center



Gay Pride Center on Orange Street in New Haven, Connecticut. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — New Haven Police in this coastal city on Long Island Sound, home to the Ivy League Yale University, are investigating a bomb threat made to the New Haven Pride Center.

According to local Fox affiliate Fox61/WTIC-TV, the bomb threat came via email and threatened that an explosive device would be activated at 1:00 pm at the Center located in the downtown area in the hundredth block of Orange Street.

As a precaution multiple downtown streets were closed and patients from the DaVita Dialysis Center located on the floor above the LGBTQ Center were evacuated via ambulances that had responded.

Police, after determining there was not an explosive device by NHPD Hazardous Device Team deemed the building safe as of 1:45 p.m., but are continuing their investigation into the incident.

In a phone call with Fox 61, Juancarlos Soto, the LGBTQ+ Center’s executive director said:

“I mean, we’re we’re a little shaky. I think regardless of whenever you get something like this, it shakes you a little bit and reminds you that that, you know, LGBTQ people are under attack across our entire country. There’s a race and LGBTQ rhetoric and rhetoric and violence against LGBTQ people. You know, I think it also reminds us of the importance of safe spaces, you know, and how even in 2023, we have so much to fight still for our community and make sure that we are safe.”

“I think it has the opposite effect of what this person intended, right. Because it bolsters your your your strength to continue to fight for a community. And it it puts us on the path to to to just keep going, Soto added. 

West Hartford Pride released a statement afterwards in solitary with the New Haven center:

“West Hartford Pride stands strongly with our friends at the New Haven Pride Center, its staff, and the New Haven Community. At West Hartford Pride, our motto is STAND AGAINST HATE. When one of us is attacked, we are all attacked.

This despicable act is one of hate and cowardice. We applaud the New Haven Pride Center for their quick actions to keep everyone safe, and their commitment to continuing to serve their community. We look forward to standing with the New Haven Pride Center at a rescheduled Pride Celebration. When we stand together in defiance of hatred and bigotry, we are stronger.”

New Haven police investigate bomb threat made to Gay Pride Center:

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Connecticut church to hold vigil following Pride service disruption

In response to the disruption, the church plans to hold a vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening it is calling “Love Is Louder”



(Screenshot/YouTube WFSB Channel 3 Hartford Connecticut)

ENFIELD, Conn. — A church in Connecticut, whose Pride service was interrupted by two anti-LGBTQ+ hatemongers, is responding with prayer. Police are warning the men responsible for the disruption to stay away or risk arrest. 

It happened Sunday at Enfield Congregational United Church of Christ in the blue-collar town located 20 minutes north of Hartford, and just south of the Massachusetts border. 

The two unidentified men were captured on video, which police used to locate them and serve them citations for trespassing. The video shows them standing between the pulpit and the pews, which were festooned with rainbow-colored balloons and decorated with Pride flags. 

One longtime churchgoer who was married in that church told the Los Angeles Blade her mother and brother were in attendance Sunday, just feet away from the men who interrupted the sermon by Pastor Greg Gray. They started shouting at him and berating those in the pews. 

“Pastor Greg handled it well,” she said. “Mom was unnerved and is still shaken, as these two assholes could’ve been armed.” 

But police are stopping short of calling their hateful act a hate crime. 

“If there is a criminal offense, it would be a disorderly conduct, a breach of the peace. We’d have to look at the applicability of the hate crime statute,” Enfield Chief of Police Alaric Fox told WFSB-TV. 

Pastor Gray said his congregants are experiencing mental and emotional trauma as a result of the disruption. “Many of our people are experiencing that kind of aftermath to this event,” Gray said, calling the men’s actions a violation of their house of worship. “They should be our safe spaces, and when something like this happens, it feels like a violation of our safe space, our home,” Gray told the station.

In response to the disruption, Gray plans to hold a vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening that he is calling “Love Is Louder.” Local leaders, churchgoers from other congregations and members of advocacy groups, including Equality Connecticut, plan to attend. Rev. Aaron Miller, the out transgender pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Hartford and MCC vice moderator Sharron Emmons will also be in attendance. 

Police say they’ll have officers on hand as well. The men who disrupted Sunday’s service have been told they are banned from the premises, and if they show up Wednesday night or any other time, they face arrest. 

Security changes after church service disrupted in Enfield:

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No bullies allowed: School for LGBTQ+ students to be themselves

Connecticut lesbian plans to open doors to PROUD Academy this fall in or near the city of New Haven, the home of Yale University



From left to right: Proud Academy Founder Patricia Nicolari and members of the academy's board of directors: John Rose, Devonne Canady, Brandon Lovene, and Henrietta Small. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Nicolari)

HARTFORD, Ct. – Only a handful of private schools around the nation provide a bully-free environment for students who identify as LGBTQ+. Come September, there will be one more, and the first of its kind in Connecticut: PROUD Academy, whose name is an acronym for Proudly Respecting Our Unique Differences. 

“Our mission is to provide a safe and affirming educational environment,” says the school’s mission statement, “where each student can engage in a rigorous curriculum free from bullying/harassment, to support a diverse population inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, race, religion, socioeconomic status, or disabilities, and to empower our learning community to recognize strength in their uniqueness.” 

The school’s founder is Patricia Nicolari, a former teacher who was repeatedly harassed by students who drew the conclusion she was gay while she was still closeted: Calling her a “dyke,” leaving notes on her desk, asking if she was a lesbian. One day, students scratched “Lez” into her car, long before she came out in 1997. 

“At the time, I remember thinking, ‘I’m going through so much anxiety as a teacher,” Nicolari told NBC News. “’I can’t imagine what our students go through questioning themselves and how unsafe it is for them to come out.’”

That sentiment, and her own harrowing personal experience, motivated Nicolari to create PROUD Academy, starting as a nonprofit in 2021. 

While straight student allies will be welcomed, too, she told the Hartford Courant LGBTQ+ youth cannot be whole if they are not allowed to be themselves. “So many kids don’t feel safe at school,” she said. “They feel alone and isolated because no one understands them.”

The academy’s curriculum, she said, will include educational basics such as math and science classes, Advanced Placement and honors level classes, and the kinds of lessons other schools don’t provide:  LGBTQ+ history and literature. Nicolari’s intention is to foster a queer-friendly environment and hire mental health counselors who can cater to LGBTQ+ youth and their specific challenges.

The need for a school like hers is “escalating,” Nicolari told PinkNews, because of the uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric across the country, even in Connecticut. She said she isn’t “naïve,” and anticipates their opening will likely trigger some kind of right-wing backlash.

“It’s such a political divide and we’re just offering a choice for students if they need a safe and affirming space,” said Nicolari, who also serves as executive director. In addition to being a longtime teacher, she holds four degrees from Southern Connecticut State University, has worked as a school administrator, director of a mentoring program for troubled youth, has been a foster parent and has served on the Governor’s Prevention Partnership LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

She’s assembled a diverse board of directors and advisors with a wide variety of experience, including attorney John Rose, the former corporation council for New Haven’s mayor,  Dr. Christian Brockenberry, head of dentistry at Cornell Scott, Arturo “Franco” Camacho, owner/chef of Shell and Bones, Geronimos and Camacho’s Garage, teachers Michael Fiorello of Stratford, Jessyca Giannetta of Stamford, Ebony McClease and Peter Solomon of New Haven, LCSW and grant writer Henrietta Small, Jason Bartlett,  Connecticut’s first out Black lawmaker and Brandon Iovene of Southern Connecticut State University. SCSU will also consult with the academy on curriculum and mentorship, the Courant reported.

Last month, Nicolari invited Celeste Lecesne, co-founder of The Trevor Project, to deliver the keynote address at an event introducing the PROUD Academy, held at the university in New Haven. They are consulting on the school’s arts curriculum. 

Celeste Lecesne, co-founder of The Trevor Project (Courtesy of Celeste Lecesne)

“We want to amplify the voices and the self-expression of queer young people,” said Lecesne, who also founded The Future Perfect Project, an arts initiative focusing on LGBTQ+ children. “It’s a declaration of a perfect future for everybody. If they do well, we all do well.”

Although the original plan was to welcome 125 students in grades 7 through 10, and eventually up to 12th grade, demand from families of younger children, including one from as far away as Florida — where the Republican-led government has targeted LGBTQ+ education and healthcare — prompted Nicolari to shift gears. She said she hopes to start the school from grade three. 

“Some parents are just saying, ‘I just want my child to be happy again,’” she said. “And if we can offer that to a family? That’d be priceless.”

One outstanding —  and overwhelmingly necessary — obstacle remains: The school has not yet secured a physical building. Nicolari told NBC News it will be in or near the city of New Haven, the home of Yale University.

The academy has also signed a partnership agreement with the four other explicitly LGBTQ+ private schools in the U.S., including the Harvey Milk High School in New York, Alabama’s Magic City Acceptance Academy, Ohio’s Albert Einstein Academy as well as a school in Wisconsin. 

Click here to view PROUD Academy enrollment forms. To support PROUD Academy, visit

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