STONE McGUIGAN: Why I Plan to Vote against the Town Flag Policy

Submitted by Janet Stone McGuigan, Democratic Selectperson

The Greenwich Board of Selectmen are set to vote this week on a flag policy that will determine what flags can and cannot be flown at Greenwich Town Hall in the future. I believe the proposed policy in its current form is flawed and therefore unacceptable.

That is why I plan to vote “no” on Thursday.

Drafted in response to last year’s Supreme Court ruling to define flag raisings as a form of government speech and in efforts to protect the town from potential legal claims, the flag policy as it stands calls for the Board of Selectmen to vote on each flag that is not the United States, State of Connecticut, or Town of Greenwich flag before it is approved to be flown at Town Hall. Flags that have flown at Town Hall in the past have commemorated American Red Cross Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Columbus Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Juneteenth, Pride Month, and more.

During the August 24 Board of Selectmen meeting, it was suggested to the Board to formally grandfather in all previously flown flags into the policy, making them exempt from future votes by the Board of Selectmen.  This suggestion was met with positive feedback from all three Selectmen.

Given this positive response, I am disappointed to find a grandfather clause missing from the current draft flag policy. In its current form, the policy proposes that each January the Board of Selectmen be asked to vote on a schedule of flags to be flown that year.

I do not believe that our treasured celebrations – especially ones centered around minority groups like Juneteenth and Pride – should be voted on each year. While it’s harder to imagine other flags like Breast Cancer Awareness, the Irish or Italian flag could come under fire, this proposed policy makes one thing certain – we can’t be so sure they wouldn’t.

The Board of Selectmen needs to support the inclusive values of our community. We need look no further than our own town’s words to underscore what the right thing to do here is. As the 2023 Greenwich Pride Proclamation reads:

“The Town of Greenwich proudly supports the rights of every citizen to experience equality and freedom from discrimination. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) communities contribute to the cultural, civic and economic successes of the Town of Greenwich; and we as a society acknowledge the need for education and awareness to end discrimination and prejudice.”

The Pride flag raising each June at Town Hall is the embodiment of these words – words that matter greatly to the safety and livelihood of some of our residents and the many more who call them family, friends and neighbors.

Grandfather our flag raising traditions in and I will gladly vote “yes” on Thursday, but if the current language stands, I must vote “no.”

Janet Stone McGuigan
Greenwich Selectperson