A city council in New Jersey is not recognizing Pride month this June and voted against even flying the Pride flag in their town.
The council held a private discussion, then when the council’s only out member motioned to fly the flag, everyone on the council except the other Democrat voted against it. The city’s mayor, who has a history of using anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, refused to allow discussion of the topic.
Hasbrouck Heights is a small borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, the most northeastern county in the state, but is just minutes away from midtown Manhattan and is home to over 11,000 residents.
The borough’s six-member council met on April 27. First, the town’s mayor, Jack DeLorenzo (R), bought the council into a closed meeting with Richard Magliare, the borough’s attorney. Conversations the council may have had with Magliare are privileged due to their attorney-client relationship, but they did discuss flying flags “other than the American, the state of New Jersey flag and the POW flag,” DeLorenzo declared later.
Afterward, they held their mandated council meeting via Zoom, which was open to the public. Council member Chris Hillmann (D), who is out, made the motion to fly a Pride flag at Borough Hall. He was seconded by council member Steven Reyngoudt. Councilmember Ron Kistner (R) wanted to discuss the motion and offer “recommendations,” but DeLorenzo did not grant him permission. He told the council they were only voting.
Jason Hodrinsky, a Hasbrouck Heights resident, asked the council for an explanation of their vote during the public comments portion of the meeting. DeLorenzo refused to let them answer.
Hodrinsky, a lawyer, also wanted to discuss what legal basis they used for the decision and what he believed prompted their meeting with Attorney Magliare. DeLorenzo also denied him an opportunity to do that.
Hodrinsky and DeLorenzo engaged in a back and forth, with Hodrinsky deriding the group as a “strong council, weak mayor.”
“This is a council meeting, so you cannot necessarily dictate who speaks and how,” Hodrinsky argued.
DeLorenzo said, “I run the meeting sir.” He said that the topic would have to be taken up individually with council members outside of the council meeting.
Footage of the meeting has also been shared online, with many noting that an attendee was shirtless while they were discussing the issue on the Zoom call.
DeLorenzo defeated Hillmann for reelection in 2019. After defeated his out opponent, the Republican declared, “the family values of our town have prevailed,” a remark that many found to be homophobic in nature. It earned him condemnation from several residents and members of Congress representing New Jersey.
Still, it remains up, and is actually DeLorenzo’s most recent post on Facebook.
DeLorenzo also made headlines in 2020 for skirting COVID-19 guidance and not quarantining after traveling to Arizona last summer.
Despite Hasbrouck Heights’ lawmakers refusing to affirm Pride month, many of its neighbors in Bergen County have taken the opposite approach.
Garfield, a nearby city of nearly 30,000 residents within Bergen County, voted to recognize this Pride month, as well as appoint an LGBTQ community liaison. Andrea Espinosa was named as the liaison. City councilmember Pawel Masleg said that the town is hoping to be recognized with a high score on the next edition of the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipality Equality Index, which evaluates how LGBTQ-welcoming a municipal area or city is.
The Rutherford Pride Alliance, based in the nearby borough of Rutherford, home to over 18,000 people, said in a statement published across social media, “We are disappointed to hear that Hasbrouck Heights has voted against raising the Pride flag for their community this June.”
Instead, they offer to “formally invite the LGBTQ+ community of Hasbrouck Heights and their allies to our Pride Flag raising event on Saturday, June 5th at [11:00 AM] at Rutherford Boro Hall.
“We welcome you all with open arms to celebrate the community of support that is right outside of your door! Know there is a huge support system for all, including our LGBTQ+ and questioning youth just a few towns away,” the alliance wrote.
Garfield will fly the Pride flag and plan other events for June. In Hasbrouck Heights, not so much. https://t.co/1Kgp2nKZZ2
— Josh Jongsma (@jongsmjo) April 29, 2021
After months of deliberations and statements from several residents, the Hasbrouck Heights Council voted 4-2 not to raise the Pride Flag on the flag pole at Borough Hall Tuesday evening.https://t.co/E3TP47u3gt
— TAPinto.net (@TAPintoLocal) April 29, 2021
Wow the mayor of hasbrouck heights sounds like a total homophobic asshat
— MB✨ (@shalissa_b) April 29, 2021