By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
After a summer of public anti-gay issues in the North Country, the North Country Pride Ride returns Sunday for its fourth annual caravan ready to showcase the support the LGBTQ+ community can count on here.
In June, which was Pride Month, a Drag Story Hour in Lancaster was cancelled because of threats. On June 10, a Queer Poetry Hour in Lyndon, Vt. was interrupted when a group gathered outside the Cobleigh Public Library carrying religious-themed signs like “Prepare To Meet Thy God.”
And the most recent dustup involved comments by state Sen. Carrie Gendreau, R-Littleton, who is also a local selectman, who said she didn’t want the three pride-themed murals that were painted on a privately owned downtown building in her town, citing her own religious beliefs.
Her comments drew 325 people to the Littleton selectboard’s last meeting.
Kerri Harrington, co-chair of North Country Pride, said she has been busy preparing for the North Country Pride Ride Sunday where pride decorated vehicles drive through downtowns in Littleton, Franconia and end at the Rek-lis Brewery in Bethlehem for refreshments and entertainment.
The Littleton police lead the caravan starting from the Littleton Coin Co. parking lot. Decorating starts at noon and the ride begins at 1 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2023-north-country-pride-ride-spirited-car-parade-reklis-after-party-tickets-644358582867
“It’s weird timing. The last couple of weeks have been hard of the LGBTQ community,” Harrington said.
The negative events have brought so much support and prompted signs to go up on people’s lawns saying, “Everyone Belongs, Live and Let Live.”
“Our Friends Our Neighbors made these. We do things together,” Harrington said.
North Country Pride collaborated with NOCO Mural Project and Granite United Way for the mural created by Meg Reinhold, a Vermont muralist.
Roger Emerson, chairman of the Littleton selectboard, said he could not give specifics on whether the board will look at new ordinances to ban public art on public or private buildings.
“I can’t give an answer. We are looking at a bunch of different things. It’s kind of hard for us to regulate private buildings. On the other hand this is a historic town” and they are looking into what those rules are.
“Nothing has been decided. It’s in the works what we are going to do. No rules have been written,” Emerson said. “We’re waiting to hear back from counsel.”
Whatever the selectmen consider, and it wouldn’t have to be on the agenda, he said, there would be a warrant article so people in Littleton can decide what goes on their land.
He said there were 325 people at Monday’s meeting when there are usually 10 or 11.
Nancy Martland is part of the Our Friends, Our Neighbors group that has declared support for their gay, lesbian and transgender neighbors.
“The ‘Everyone Belongs’ campaign represents an effort to counteract the messages of exclusion and hostility,” Martland said.
Two local town Selectboards have passed resolutions declaring that their towns welcome everyone. “Folks are working on getting other towns to join in,” Martland said.
There has been talk of white supremacist groups threatening to attend the North Country Pride Ride.
It is becoming a statewide issue. On Thursday, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, who is running for governor, visited the Littleton murals to show her support. And Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, a Democrat also running for governor, has voiced her support for the murals. The Caledonian Record reported that Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte disagreed with Rep. Gendreau’s anti-mural remarks.
Also last Tuesday, the Goffstown High School Media Center was packed with residents, state representatives, parents, and students to discuss the controversy over LGBTQ+ materials on a bulletin board at Mountain View Middle School in Goffstown.
On June 18, Neo-Nazis tried to intimidate patrons and a performer at the Teatotaller Café in Concord for the scheduled Drag Queen Story Hour.
A large group of young men wearing baseball caps and mostly concealing their faces descended on Teatotaller on Main Street as drag performer Juicy Garland was reading to children and families.
Videos of the young men show them giving Nazi salutes and shouting racist slogans outside the Teatotaller.
Attorney General John Formella’s spokesman said that incident was being investigated.