Local councillors have been criticised for their “blatant homophobic and outdated comments” in a meeting about a Pride flag outside a Grade I-listed building.
In an open letter shared on Wednesday (18 August), 26 business owners in the town of Maldon, Essex said they were “absolutely shocked” by councillors’ objections to a Pride flag being flown outside the historic Moot Hall, which is used for civil ceremonies.
They highlighted particularly offensive comments from the councillor and reverend Tony Shrimpton, who said he “abided by the Bible which clearly says marriage is between a man and a woman,” adding: “I’m not very keen on calling same-sex weddings weddings. When you’re talking about same-sex weddings, you’re not talking about weddings.”
Objections from other councillors such as “flying a flag sets a precedent” and “why aren’t we flying a flag for other people” did not go unnoticed.
‘Homophobic’ views went unchallenged by other councillors
Local businesses said the offensive comments went against the councillors’ code of conduct, which requires holders of public office to make decisions “without discrimination or bias”.
They also said they were “dismayed and disappointed” that these views appeared to go unchallenged by others in the meeting.
“It’s 2021 and we were absolutely shocked to see the blatant homophobic and outdated comments made by Councillor Shrimpton and others in the August 16 council meeting about purchasing the LGBTQ+ pride flag,” their letter reads.
“As members of the town council you have a responsibility to represent Maldon as a community as a whole, and that includes LGBTQ+ members living and running businesses here.
“We are bitterly disappointed in this council for not holding Mr Shrimpton and others to account and rest assured we will be using our voices to do so and ensure comments like this do not happen again.”
Maldon District Council said it was aware of the complaints and reaffirmed its support for LGBT+ rights.
“We are aware of comments made at a recent Maldon Town Council meeting about the #Pride flag,” it tweeted.
“Maldon District Council is proud to support pride and the LGBTQ+ community including flying the flags during Pride and Transgender Awareness Day each year. #loveislove.”
The open letter’s co-signatories include Mrs Salisbury’s, Anvil & Ivy, Silo Refillery, Heart of Craft, Clear Ear, Foot Freedom, Willow & Fox, Luna Blue Interiors, Dawn Interiors, The Gnome Cafe, Dante’s, Chic Petite, Maldon Books, Aesthetic Hair, Bridal Reloved Maldon, Just The Thing, Ansell and Sons, The Hair Room, Crystal Shack, Rubino Kitchen, Miss Rachel Holland, Luxury Home Fragrances and many other local businesses.
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