A divided city council in Gastonia passed a proclamation acknowledging Pride Month.
The proclamation — a document issued by a government body to formally commemorate a particular time period — came under intense discussion in a recent committee meeting, with Councilman Jim Gallagher heavily opposing it.
While Gallagher said most recently that he opposes it because he considers LGBTQ+ issues a divisive political topic, he has previously cited his conservative Christian religious beliefs as a reason for opposing the proclamation.
The Gastonia City Council most recently acknowledged Pride Month in 2018, when one council member, Jennifer Stepp, was absent. The council members who were present, which included Gallagher, approved the proclamation unanimously.
On Tuesday evening, Councilwoman Donyel Barber made the motion to add the proclamation to the city's council meeting agenda, paving the way for it to be passed.
Gallagher gave another speech opposing the motion, saying that LGBTQ+ Pride is one of the largest sources of political, ideological and religious controversy in the nation.
"On top of my own religious beliefs and personal convictions, and even forgetting about the guidelines themselves for a moment, I will simply never vote to bring the very thing that we are watching in real time cause so much conflict in our country, strife and dissension in our country to our very doorstep," he said.
While she did not make a public statement, Councilwoman Jennifer Stepp was the only other vote along with Gallagher against the Pride proclamation. Stepp said in an interview that she voted against the proclamation because she felt it was a divisive political issue and therefore did not meet the council's guidelines for what kind of city proclamations are allowed.
"Both parties do have stances on gay rights. Maybe it shouldn't be, but hot-button issues, you know, those that are emotional and part of our core value system and make up who we are, are often the very ones that become the most political," she said.
When asked if she opposed it for ideological reasons, she referred back to the proclamation guidelines, but added that she is a Christian.
"Well, I mean, I do have my own beliefs, but my decision was based on the guidelines," she said.
Clark Simon, a Gastonia resident and the former president of Charlotte Pride, received the proclamation along with supporters. He said in an interview that prior to the meeting, he was cautiously optimistic, and he was pleased that it passed.
"I think it just showcases that Gastonia is willing to move in the right direction if they are nudged and are shown that it is important to not just the queer community here, but all the people who live here and support that community," Simon said.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: How Gastonia City Council voted on acknowledging Pride Month