Pride & Politics – Northern NH LGBTQ Community Rolls After Gendreau’s Comments

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Paula Tracy photo

Ready to ride in the North Country Pride Ride Sunday in Littleton were Henry and his person Rob French.

Above, Supporters line up along the parade route waiting for the North Country Pride
Ride to pass by. Paula Tracy photo


LITTLETON – There was a big turnout Sunday for the North Country Pride Ride through Littleton, Franconia and Bethlehem with people talking religion and politics after a week of LGBTQ+ issues making headlines and letters to the editor.

More than 50 vehicles decorated in balloons, rainbow banners and signs reading “Everyone Belongs” lined up in a large parking lot outside Littleton Coin Co. and participated in a late summer caravan led by local police who stopped traffic to let the procession move through together through three towns.

Wearing a rainbow neck scarf, “Henry,” a Chinese red teddy bear poodle, sat in the shade with other dogs, along with his people, Rob French of Brighton, Mass., Rob’s mother, former state Rep. Elaine French of Littleton and other friends, new and old.

Nearby people dressed in festive attire, some in drag, talked while they shared materials to decorate their vehicles. The weather could not have been more perfect after last year’s event was nearly washed away.

It was the fourth annual caravan to support the LGBTQ+ community in the region and it came at a good time when some said they felt negative pushback to their message of inclusivity by conservative state Rep. Carrie Gendreau, R-Littleton, who is also a local selectboard member.

She was not at the parade. But statements Gendreau made at a public meeting in recent weeks about LGBTQ+/diversity art in downtown were the subject of a lot of discussion by attendees.

Gendreau told fellow selectboard members she didn’t want the murals which were painted on a privately owned downtown building, in her town, citing her own religious beliefs. She criticized the mural with the rainbow and goddess Iris, which Gendreau reportedly linked to Satan.

Three murals on a privately owned building in downtown Littleton stirred controversy. Paula Tracy photo

By some estimates, the meeting on Monday to discuss those comments drew between 200 and 325 people.

Gendreau couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

Above, Vehicles line up in Littleton for the North Country Pride Ride Sunday. Paula Tracy photo

Chuck Phillips of Bethlehem, decorating his vehicle to participate in the ride, said he has drafted a few letters to the editor about Gendreau’s comments which have already been printed.

“She has no business imposing her views and values on us all,” Phillips said. “Her views are extremist which normal Christians don’t share and I can guarantee there will be a challenge to her seat in the New Hampshire state senate.”

He said the Grafton County Democratic Party is actively looking for someone to run for the seat, whether she seeks re-election or not.

Gendreau is a first term senator who won over former state Rep. Edith Tucker, a Democrat.

Phillips is not the only one who has been writing letters to the editor and not all have been opposing Gendreau.

An op-ed piece by Sugar Hill’s Nick DeMayo ran in the New Hampshire Union Leader Friday defending her comments about the artwork by Meg Reinhold, a Vermont muralist.

He said Gendreau has been receiving many “anti-Carrie” letters in the papers calling them “a wicked tongue-lashing of a good woman, a good conservative public servant.”

Above, Ken Hapke and Bob Delisle of St. Johnsbury, Vt., work on their decorations for the North Country Pride Ride Sunday in Littleton. Paula Tracy photo

Gendreau and the 14-10 Republican controlled Senate “have been there for us in legislating common sense issues like school choice, lower taxes, anti-recreational cannabis-use legalization, securing our borders from invasion by illegal migrants, as well as many other conservative pieces of legislation,” DeMayo wrote.

Nancy Phillips was out in support of the parade and was discussing Gendreau’s most recent comments critical of local “activist” Kris Pastoriza.

“She’s hurt a lot of people and she hasn’t apologized. I really do think there needs to be an acknowledgement of how much hurt she has caused,” Phillips said.

Gendreau issued a thank you statement to those who attended the meeting and said she listened to everyone. But she has maintained she plans to stand by her comments.

The ride got off without a hitch and proceeded through Main Street in Littleton at about 1 p.m., worked its way into downtown Franconia before heading to Bethlehem where it concluded at Rek-Lis Brewing Company for a community celebration and refreshments.

On the way into Bethlehem, a group of people and their dogs were sitting on chairs on Main Street with signs reading “Everyone Belongs.”

There were no signs of opponents.

Ken Hapke with Bob Delisle of St. Johnsbury, Vt. were blowing up balloons to attach to their vehicles before the ride rolled and were asked what they would say to Gendreau.

Hapke said: “Get a life and let other people live their lives. I look at the mural that is the source of the controversy and it is lovely, very welcoming. I don’t understand the controversy. I am all for religion but don’t impose yours on me. There is no place for religion in government.“

Everyone Belongs signs were created by the Our Friends, Our Neighbors group and are showing up on lawns in the North Country.

Peter Ilgenfritz, interim pastor of the First Congregational Church, said he went to the Selectboard meeting as well and wrote a letter to the board. He said he would be very interested in a conversation with other clergy in town “to see if we can make some connections.”

The Franconia Community Church of Christ was in attendance for the Pride Ride and some members of the congregation including Robin Lubguban of Bethlehem were busy in the parking lot putting the finishing touches on their truck, with a sign reading “An open and affirming congregation.”

“There will be a letter to the editor” on the subject of Gendreau’s comments in the near future, Lubguban said.

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