Darien groups to raise Pride flag this summer

The city of Stamford raises the LGBT Pride Flag.

The city of Stamford raises the LGBT Pride Flag.

Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — Michael Cortese doesn’t want to make his efforts to see the rainbow flag around town during Pride month this June political; he wants to start a discussion.

Cortese moved to Darien with his husband Ryan about three years ago when their daughter was born. He said it had so many positive qualities that attracted his family — proximity to New York City, walking distance to the train, the parks, and beaches. He describes himself as apoliticial which is why he was drawn to serve on the Representative Town Meeting.

Still, he thinks Darien can continue to grow and evolve. To make the idea of flying the Pride flag in town a reality, he started by asking First Selectman Jayme Stevenson back in January, who agreed to raise the flag in June.

“The town is happy to raise the Pride flag in June to raise social awareness for the LGBTQ community and to evidence that we as a town value the personal rights of all individualism,” Stevenson said. “I particularly love that the rainbow flag is also a symbol of peace ... something we are all craving after a long year under the veil of the pandemic.”

The Noroton Heights Fire Department also unanimously voted to fly the flag.

“Most have been so receptive,” Cortese said.

At the Depot Youth Center, program director Janice Marzano said the pandemic has put stress on the town’s young people, and said she has seen an increasing anxiety manifesting in different ways. The Depot would “be honored to join this campaign in June,” she said.

“I totally support this effort and hope the Darien community embraces showing town-wide support for Pride Month,” she said.

Marzano said she has had several recent conversations with young people in town who have shown fear or reluctance to “come out.”

“The driver behind that fear is judgment or feeling alone. This type of public support could go a long way in not only making these young people feel less isolated, but further feel like a welcome part of the Darien community,” Marzano said.

Cortese said a recent social media post he saw about a child suffering from anxiety with their sexual orientation further inspired him to want to make the town more welcoming and friendly. He said he hopes the community showing their support for Pride Month will help many like this child and others.

“We are not the only gay couple in town with kids,” he said.

What is critical for Cortese is that this effort does not become political or pit Democrats against Republicans. What matters to him is that those struggling feel supported.

“I just picture a teenager who needs it on the way to Darien High School and seeing that Pride flag on the Noroton Heights Fire Department,” he said.

Cortese said Darien is currently changing and deciding what it wants to be.