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Burlington councilors pass resolution supporting LGBTQIA+ community

WAMC/Pat Bradley
Burlington City Hall

The Burlington City Council held its first meeting since Town Meeting Day on Monday. The council will not change until its first meeting in April and one of the items that the lame-duck session considered was a resolution of support for the city’s LGBTQIA+ community.

In advance of the city council meeting Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, announced that if an item on the agenda was passed he would “be enthusiastically signing” it. It was a resolution supporting LGBTQIA+ community, condemning transphobia and committing to begin observing Trans Day of Visibility annually on March 31st. The measure has been put forth in the wake of growing violence nationally regionally and locally and as a rash of anti-trans stickers have been posted across Burlington.

The proposal dominated public comments. City resident Mark Montalbon told councilors the resolution should go further and consider becoming a sanctuary city for the trans community.

“There are I would say at least a couple hundred people within our city who want to eliminate folks they are in fear of. And this city better take this pretty damn serious because I’m hearing language that those in my grandmother’s generation heard in the 1930’s.”

“I’m Kim Jordan. I am the director of the Safe Space Anti-violence Program at PRIDE Center of Vermont. Over two years ago we were alerted to these stickers in the New North End that our non-binary, gender nonconforming trans residents felt minimized their human rights and they feel unsafe. In that two years escalating hate and harm in our communities, in our country, has escalated. That act of opposing harm and hate is vital.”

“My name is Kevin Hurley. I am a 42-year-old gay man. I am also one of the coordinators of the stickering campaign that you, the council, call transphobic hate speech. We are not the ones advocating for the chemical castration, sterilization and genital mutilation of children. That’s you. We are not spreading hate. We are telling the truth and you know it. Like it or not, no one was ever born into the wrong body.”

The resolution’s lead Sponsor, Ward 3 Progressive Joe Magee, says over the past several years there has been a trend of violence and hateful rhetoric against the LGBTQIA+ community nationally, regionally and locally.

“There are people here in Vermont who through hateful rhetoric and protests have attempted to intimidate and marginalize queer and trans people, particularly trans youth. Here in Burlington, we have seen increasing quantities of transphobic stickers being put up in our public spaces near our schools and near spaces that are meant to support and celebrate the LGBTQIA community. We’ve seen hateful vandalism of the PRIDE Center. To those who spoke out against this resolution I ask you to reflect on your rhetoric and your actions and consider taking accountability for the harm you are causing to many in our community.”

For Central District Progressive Perri Freeman it was an emotional vote.

“I just want to say I love being trans. I think I’ve consciously realized that about myself as a late teenager and it’s funny to look back at myself from younger years and my childhood. And it’s not me. And I think it’s so nice to keep figuring out what me is and to be able to live more fully. And I’m not someone who is medically transitioned and I want to continue to be able to make choices about my body and about my life.”

Councilors unanimously passed the LGBTQIA+ resolution.

Among the other orders of business, Mayor Weinberger submitted for approval his appointment of Michael LaChance as the city’s new city Fire Chief.

“Chief LaChance has the experience to do the job that is needed in the years ahead, has been with the department now for over 20 years. Has worked his way all the way up through the ranks to the rank a year ago of Deputy Chief and he’s distinguished himself.”

City councilors unanimously approved LaChance’s appointment.