Jim Furlong: A Coin of Two Sides

(From the May 13-19 issue)

I felt for the council of Springdale a few weeks ago and the controversy over its decision not to paint the rainbow symbol on a town crosswalk to show support for the LGBTQ community. 

The problem is the reaction to council’s “No” decision. The town and Mayor Dave Edison, by all accounts a good guy, came under criticism for making a decision against the current running tide in our society. Springdale took a lot of criticism from editorial writers and online anonymous ‘keyboard warriors.’ 

Here is a different take on the whole thing. 

Something Else at Play

Nobody supports the rights of other people more than I do. I work at it. I believe in the ongoing struggle of the LGBTQ community and I believe firmly in the concept of diversity as being vitally important to a healthy society. I also understand that particular struggle is certainly not over and has more miles to go. 

There is, however, something else at play beyond a painted crosswalk in Springdale. The people of Springdale have every right to have a sidewalk painted in the rainbow colours as a sign of support. 

What too many people overlook, however, is that the same moral imperative that gives them the right to express something through crosswalk paint also gives them the right not to express that. That doesn’t make the Springdale council evil, anti LGBTQ, or anything else. It just means they have decided not to paint a crosswalk. 

They did meet with the student group that originally proposed the rainbow crosswalk gesture and, after sober second thought, decided its original decision would stand, but they would express LGBTQ support some other way. 

What lies behind the Springdale decision? Well, I don’t know and neither do you. It has been said Springdale is a community of the Christian Right. Again… so what? What we do know is that the duly elected council of a community made its decision. It may not be the decision you would make, but then it isn’t your decision. The elected council of Springdale made the decision and if the people of Springdale have a problem with it they can fire some or all of the council out of office in the next election. 

Fostered a Debate

The takeaway from all of this is everybody’s rights have to be respected. Not just people who think the way we do. Other towns and councils have taken measures to indicate their statements of inclusion. That is absolutely their right, but so is it the right of Springdale to express itself as it sees fit without being branded as being narrow-minded or homophobic. It is like the right to vote. It is meaningless unless you also have the very important right not to vote. 

Ironically, the controversy in Springdale has focused attention on an issue and fostered a debate. That’s a better result than a painted bit of asphalt.

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