Retired Justice John Greaney honored during event
WESTFIELD – The start of Pride Month was commemorated June 1 with the raising of the Pride Progress flag at Park Square Green and City Hall.
The Westfield Pride Alliance group organized a ceremony at City Hall to celebrate the raising of not one, but two Pride Progress flags on city property.
“This is huge for Westfield,” said Christopher Clark, an organizer of the event and Master of Ceremonies. “This is part of Westfield history.”
The Pride Progress flag includes a rainbow – the traditional symbol of LGBTQ pride – plus black and brown stripes for people of color, and baby blue, pink and white from the transgender flag in its design. Designer Daniel Quasar also said the brown and black stripes represents those people living with AIDS and those who have died. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.
Guest speakers included resident Mary Beth Berrien, Ron’na Lytle of Westfield State University and Council on Aging Director Tina Gorman, as well as remarks from state Sen. John C. Velis and state Rep. Kelly Pease.
A highlight of the ceremony was the awarding of the first-ever Westfield Pride Alliance Equality Award to retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court John M. Greaney.
Greaney, a lifelong Westfield resident, helped break down barriers by writing the concurrence in Goodridge v. Department of Health in 2003, which helped push Massachusetts to become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Greaney said he was honored and kept his remarks short. He said, “When we wrote the Goodridge decision, a lot of people asked why, and I said ‘Why not?’”
Velis said while attending Suffolk Law School he read Greaney’s opinion and was inspired by the lawyer and judge from his hometown.
Velis and Pease spoke about human beings being the priority and honoring all humans.
Berrien, a teacher and LGBTQ ally, said she is often approached by students who struggle with coming out to their families. She said she always offers a “mom hug” and said adults, especially parents, need to support young people.
Lytle said what Berrien does for younger students, she does for college students, including the hugs.
“I will love you unconditionally,” she said. “Remember that Pride is not just a march. It’s not just a party. It’s a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and where we need to go.”
Lytle said having two Pride Progress flags showed the community that Westfield is a welcoming place for all.
“Thank you to the City of Westfield for showing us we can be part of the greater community,” Lytle said.
Gorman and said while much of the LGBTQ support is geared toward young people, those who helped pave the way needed support, too.
Prior to the COVID shutdown, the Senior Center hosted its first breakfast for the LGBTQ community and allies. Gorman said she has found that many older residents within the community had a lifetime of discrimination, of dishonorable military discharges, harassment, feeling trapped and roadblocks in health care. She and her staff began working to help the older LGBTQ residents in the city and formed a committee, the members of which educated themselves with help from community members. Gorman said they may not always understand, they may get some things wrong, but they are learning and she was proud to be called an ally. She also encouraged LGBTQ residents to be open and vocal so that others can learn from them.
City Councilor Kristen L. Mello, a member of the Westfield Pride Alliance, and Greaney raised the flag as attendees applauded and several passersby honked their car horns.
City Councilors Brent B. Bean II, Cindy Harris, Ralph J. Figy and Richard K. Sullivan Jr. also participated in the event. Clark thanked those who were there and noted that Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. showed his support and helped make history by approving the flying of the Pride Progress flag in Park Square.