Town manager resigns due to anti-gay pressure in Littleton, New Hampshire | World News

Feb 6, 2024

Littleton: The strange city Of Littleton, new Hampshire, is seeing more tourists attracted to the main street of shops and restaurants, where rainbow colors and gay pride symbols can be seen along with American flags. Its population of 6,000 is growing younger and more diverse, supporting LGBTQ-themed art and local theater's gay-themed musicals.
The change in culture doesn't sit well with town Select Board member Carrie Gendreau, who also serves as a Republican state senator. Last year, he said “homosexuality is an abomination” and called for art to be regulated on public property, drawing a backlash and now his resignation. city ​​managerWhose late son was gay.
“My son is not disgusting,” Jim Gleason told the select board in January when he announced his last day was Friday. He accused Gendreau of creating a toxic work environment by repeatedly making derogatory comments about gay people. Friday was also the deadline for Gendreau to apply for re-election to the board, but he did not do so, so his three-year term expires in March.
A former mill town in the White Mountains, Littleton reversed its long decline in part through the arts. Tourists now come for the antiques, galleries, boutiques and “the world's longest candy counter.” They also visit the bronze statue of Pollyanna, which was installed outside the public library in honor of local author Eleanor H. Porter's 1913 book, whose main character defines tireless optimism.
Pollyanna's motto is “Be happy!” – which hang from banners up and down Main Street – has been tested as townspeople have found themselves debating inclusion, tolerance and equality.
The controversy began in August, when three small murals funded by a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion grant appeared on the side of a building that houses a restaurant and clothing store. Covering the windows above, frescoes show a white iris in front of a color wheel, two birch trees leaning under the night sky, and a dandelion growing skyward from an open book.
“What happened was not good,” Gendreau said, urging the Select Board audience to research what such symbols actually mean. “I don't want him to be in our town. I don't want him to be here.”
The board then sought advice from a lawyer about what they could do to regulate artistic expression on city property and Gendreau gave several interviews, including telling The Boston Globe that the Iris painting contained “demonic hidden messages”. Are.
Artist Meg Reinhold said her “We Are Joy” painting was inspired by Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows. She told The Associated Press in an email that she hopes it will “evoke feelings of joy and empowerment,” bring beauty to Littleton and celebrate people living proudly in the LGBTQ+ community.
“If an audience looks at these works and sees monsters and darkness, what does that tell us about how they see the world?” Reinhold said.
Gleason, who answered to the board as city manager, said he tried to resolve matters. When a woman approached him in November demanding to stop the production of “La Cage aux Folles” – which is depicted on screen as “The Birdcage” – he said she would protest outside the theater or collect tickets. Not free to buy.
He recalled Gleason invoking his son, “He's in hell with the devil,” Gleason said, and he said Gendreau tried to justify the comments. The woman later admitted that she had sent Gleeson a photograph of herself taken from a newspaper, with abusive language written on her face. A judge granted Gleason a restraining order against him.
As fears of a ban on public art spread, large crowds turned out at selection board meetings.
Ronnie Sandler, 75, who has been gay her entire adult life, said she spoke out at a selectboard meeting last fall because some of her friends told her they were afraid.
“In all these years I have never felt any hatred or anything targeted at me,” he told the AP. “In the late '70s, my girlfriend and I walked around Littleton holding hands.”
A group of local business owners, led by auto dealership manager Duane Cote, presented a letter signed by more than 1,000 people in Littleton and across the country urging the board to abandon “a path so detrimental to business.”
“Our community is so much stronger because of this situation,” Coute said.
New Hampshire's Democratic-led congressional delegation emphasized “how integral public art and cultural expression is to the economic well-being and competitiveness of towns like Littleton and similar communities across New Hampshire.” Nearby towns adopted the resolution of inclusivity-equality.
Some people supported Gendreau.
“She speaks for stakeholders who are afraid to speak out because of personal vendetta. She speaks for those who fear for their personal safety,” said Nick De Meo of nearby Sugar Hill in Gendreau's Senate district. It is written in the letter to the editor.
Others described the entire experience as frustrating and humiliating.
“This is coming from a very small group of people. Unfortunately, that small group of people hold elected office and hold a certain amount of power within the city,” said Kevin Silva, a physician who has lived in Littleton for nearly 20 years. Are living, said.
The board ultimately declared that they never sought to ban the art. Selection board member Linda McNeil said this when she said, “Whether we agree with the content or not, art is part of the fabric of history and should not be censored.” Roger Emerson, chairman of the three-member board, took no position on the subject.
The 65-year-old Gleason expressed surprise at the widespread support for protecting the arts during his resignation speech and urged his fellow townspeople to keep working “for civil rights and equality for all.”
“Keep fighting,” he told the audience in a trembling voice. 'You have a beautiful city.'
Gleason, who was hired in 2021 after a similar job in Florida, told the AP he was thinking of his son, Patrick, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2016.
Gleeson said, “I believe he would be proud of his father for standing up not only for him, but for all of the LGBTQIA-plus community and anyone who has been marginalized or discriminated against in the context of that process.” “Standing for.” “This is one of those moments. We don't always get them in life.”
Gendreau did not respond directly when asked to comment on the controversy, but suggested he was not finished trying to transform his community. “There are a lot of wrongs that need to be fixed,” he said.

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