Great Falls Mayor Cory Reeves Refuses to Issue Pride Proclamation

Great Falls Mayor Cory Reeves Refuses to Issue Pride Proclamation

“As mayor, I have decided not to issue a proclamation for LGBTQ+ Month. While I firmly believe in equality for all individuals, I also believe that the government should not be involved in matters concerning personal and private relationships, whether they involve straight individuals or members of the LGBTQ+ community. My goal is to ensure that all citizens are treated with equal respect and dignity, without government interference in personal matters. The government should never condemn nor celebrate who should love who; those are personal life choices that the government should not interfere with.”

There’s a lot to unpack in Reeves’ refusal to issue a proclamation acknowledging Pride Month. Though he couched his statement in the language of equality, his statement reveals a deep prejudice against LGBTQ+ people and a denial of reality and history.

Let’s begin with the reason cities issue “proclamations” in the first place. Generally the goal of a proclamation is to honor, celebrate or create awareness of an event, special occasion, cause or significant issues. They do not require funding, and they do not have “force of law.”  They are a feel-good thing which brings people together around something they care about. Reeves’ action does just the opposite. His action has set off controversy while marginalizing a significant segment of the community. And his covering up by saying, “It’s none of our business” is simply lame. The same thing could be said of most proclamations cities make.

Discrimination and violence have been directed at the LGBTQ+ community for decades as part of an effort to keep this group out of the mainstream of society.  Unfortunately, this is a tradition with lots of precedent in American society.  Many groups which have been pushed out have organized to push back. One tool for doing that is celebrating their existence and refusing to remain silent in the margins. Another is forming civic groups and “fraternal” organizations.

As a result we have St. Patrick’s Day (Irish), Martin Luther King Day (African Americans), and so on. Civic and fraternal organizations were formed to organize and promote communities which have faced bigotry, rejection and discrimination in society.  The Sons of Norway, The Hibernians, and Knights of Columbus are just a few of the better known of these organizations.  

The LGBTQ+ community organizing Pride Parades and Pride Month and asking local governments to issue proclamations of support and celebration is a time honored tradition in America. Unfortunately, Cory Reeves’ refusal to issue a proclamation also finds its roots in tradition as well. The efforts of all of “out” groups to confront discriminatory treatment has always been resisted by those in power.  And just like Cory Reeves, those who seek to keep others “in their place”  cloak themselves with phony excuses which deny the fundamental bigotry of their actions.  

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the City of Great Falls has flubbed this issue. In the summer of 2020, the LGBTQ+ community asked the city to adopt an ordinance which prohibited discrimination against them as has been done in other major cities in Montana (Missoula, Helena, Butte, Bozeman). After taking public comment, the commission decided not to adopt an ordinance which specifically condemned discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.

The LGBTQ+ community has come a long way in the last 50 years.  But, as Reeves’ action demonstrates, there is still a long way to go. Change in issues like this is a long slow struggle which requires commitment and tenacity.  The LGBTQ+ community understands that and will continue to press for equal treatment.  This motto says it all:  “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”