Advocates were jubilant when city council agreed last week to declare June a month of Pride in Sarnia.
In a 6-2 vote, council also decided to fly the rainbow flag on the waterfront and illuminate City Hall in rainbow-coloured lights, decisions that brought cheers from many of those in the gallery.
The celebration then moved into the lobby.
“I’m very happy and I’m very proud of Sarnia,” said a tearful Tara Kindel, who attended the meeting with wife Stacey Gray. The young couple moved to the city a year ago.
“We’re kind of just realizing how divided Sarnia is, but seeing the way we’re going I’m becoming very proud of this community.”
But others clearly weren’t happy about Sarnia joining London, Windsor and Chatham in recognizing support for the LGBTQ+ community. An older couple and the revellers had a verbal exchange in the lobby.
“What would happen if we tried to raise the heterosexual flag?” the woman asked, as the man grabbed a reporter’s arm to push a microphone aside.
“You raise it every single day,” someone in the crowd replied.
Prior to the council vote, eight community delegations spoke, all in support of the concept.
Matt Joosse, a Lambton Public Health promoter, said members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be victims of violent crime and 14 times more at risk of suicide.
“To be gay was shameful, something to deride and something to bully people for,” said Carol Moore, a gay woman who left Sarnia in her 20s but has since returned.
“Like many people my age, it took leaving Sarnia to be comfortable enough to come out.”
Coun. Terry Burrell voted to support the measures, but said the show of support at City Hall was intimidating to residents who don’t agree.
“I don’t think they realize how aggressive they really are,” he said.
After the meeting, Burrell was asked for examples of that aggressive behaviour. He declined to answer and left.
Coun. Bill Dennis, who brought the issue to council, said one of the reasons he entered politics was to make an impact.
“When you can actually do something that really, truly affects people’s lives in a really positive way, it’s so empowering,” he said after the meeting.
“You feel like you’re walking on clouds.”