Mayor's proclamation recognizes Pride Month, but flag won't fly at Palatine's village hall
June has been proclaimed Pride Month for the first time in Palatine history, but unlike in several of its neighboring communities, the proclamation came without any fanfare or a public announcement.
Instead, a document was filed at village hall after Mayor Jim Schwantz signed it June 1. Schwantz said that's simply how he goes about most proclamations, which are his prerogative as mayor.
"I didn't read it at the village council meeting because that's not my policy," he said.
LGBTQ+ residents commended the mayor's decision to issue a proclamation, but also said they wished the village had taken a more public stance to honor Pride Month, like flying a Pride flag outside village hall as some suburbs have done.
"I am extremely appreciative that they did something," said resident Joe Serio, who lives in Palatine with his husband Paul Dombrowski. "But it feels like it was something that was done as a secret, in a backroom so that it would not ruffle the feathers of people who do not support LGBTQ+ issues."
Schwantz signs about 20 proclamations per year, including for things like Domestic Violence Awareness Month, National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and National Safe Boating Week. In the last two years, he's issued only three public proclamations at village council meetings: for the League of Women's Voters 100th anniversary in February 2020, and for Arbor Day in April 2020 and April 2021.
Recognizing June as Pride Month is becoming more common in the suburbs.
Arlington Heights, Barrington and Elk Grove Village issued proclamations at their respective board meetings.
Des Plaines recently changed city policy to allow the rainbow flag to be displayed for seven days in June. The Wheaton mayor said he plans to read a Pride proclamation at a council meeting June 21.
In Buffalo Grove, a crowd of LGBTQ+ supporters last week protested the village's denial of a resident's request to display the Pride flag at village hall. The village instead agreed to fly the flag at the Rotary Village Green.
Schwantz said he received requests from five or six residents about honoring Pride Month, so he took action and issued a proclamation.
Serio and Dombrowski said they learned of the village's action on Facebook, after another resident contacted the mayor about recognizing Pride Month.
They emailed Schwantz to thank him, and to suggest that the village fly the Pride flag at least June 27, which is Pride Day. The flag goes beyond expressing support for people who identify as LGBTQ+, Dombrowski said.
"It's a symbol of support for the parents that have a gay child. The grandparents that have a gay grandchild. It's for the closeted teenager or the child that might have a LGBTQ+ parent, brother or sister. It's for the person who has a gay friend or neighbor," he said.
Palatine's village hall flies the U.S. flag and the Illinois state flag, and periodically the POW/MIA and Tree City USA flags, Schwantz said. That was the policy when he took office and that's what he's kept, he said.
"I have gotten maybe two dozen different requests through my tenure to fly different flags," said Schwantz, who's been mayor since 2009.
"I was asked to fly the Mexican flag for Mexican Independence Day in September and the Irish flag for St. Patrick's Day in March. Someone even sent me the W flag and asked me to fly that when the Cubs won the World Series (in 2016). I have stayed very steady in the policy."
Councilman Brad Helms said he supports the LGBTQ+ community, but agrees that the flag policy works well for Palatine. "Think about all the different groups there are and that we have to represent. The thing we all know is that we live in the United States and we live in Illinois, and that's what we have in common," Helms said. "When we start to fly all these different flags, it starts to divide, because not everybody believes the same things."
The other five council members couldn't be reached for comment.
Policies can be changed, especially for a positive cause, Dombrowski and Serio said.
"Flags that support unity, acceptance and tolerance, we will put in the 'yes' column," Serio said. "Flags that support division and hate and violence and aggression, we will put that in the 'no' column."
Schwantz said he's comfortable with his stance.
"If someone wants to fly any flag on their private property, they can. If they want to reach out to a different government agency (asking for the Pride flag), they can," Schwantz said. "I've been very consistent with the rules."