BY BTL STAFF
Ferndale’s Mayor David Coulter led the Rainbow Flag Raising ceremony in the city’s council chambers. Pictured (l to r) are City Councilman Greg Pawlica, Coulter, Jan Stevenson, Susan Erspamer, Michael Lary, Julia Music, Ann Heler, Stephanie White and Madeline LeBlanc. Inset – LaBlanc, a sophomore at Ferndale High School and president of the GSA, proudly marched the flag into the chamber.
FERNDALE – It was all smiles and celebration at the Ferndale City Council meeting last night as an ebullient Mayor David Coulter led a rainbow flag raising ceremony in the Council’s official chamber. The large rainbow flag was marched in and installed by Madeline LeBlanc, a sophomore at Ferndale High School and president of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.
“Together we’ve made history,” said Coulter. “From Affirmations and commitment ceremonies to PrideFest and a human rights ordinance, every step we’ve taken together has helped move Ferndale forward. And now, it’s time for our community to acknowledge that progress with this important symbolic but meaningful act.”
Coulter then invited a group of LGBTQ activists to join him on the dais as the flag was raised, including Jan Stevenson, founding executive director of Affirmations, Affirmations current executive director Susan Erspamer, Michael Lary who in 1991 produced the first PrideFest in Royal Oak that later moved to Ferndale and evolved into both Ferndale Pride and Motor City Pride, Ferndale Pride organizer Julia Music, long-time Ferndale activist Ann Heler, and Equality Michigan executive director Stephanie White. Coulter also recognized the other openly gay man on Ferndale’s City Council, Greg Pawlica.
“I remember attending a Ferndale City Council meeting in 1992,” said Stevenson. “Council members then made it perfectly clear that gays were not welcome in Ferndale or at the Council meeting. My, how times have changed!” she said. She congratulated Coulter and the council for raising the flag and for their supportive governance in Ferndale.
“At Equality Michigan our goal is to work with municipalities all over the state to make them more like Ferndale,” said White.
LeBlanc, who dreams of someday becoming a dermatologist, was joined by her beaming father and the faculty advisor of Ferndale High School’s GSA. The audience included about 20 LGBTQ Ferndale residents and allies.
“Tonight, the LGBT Pride Flag will be installed in our City Council chambers, where it will hang alongside flags of the United States, the State of Michigan, Oakland County, the City of Ferndale and POW-MIAs. Not for a week, or a month, or during a special event – but permanently, making Ferndale among the first municipalities in the nation to do so,” said Coulter.