OTTUMWA — It's fairly uncommon for city officials to receive a round of applause.

But after a 14-minute discussion between the city and advocates for the LGBTQ community, that is exactly what they received.

On a unanimous 4-0 vote by the city council, mMayor Tom Lazio signed a citywide proclamation recognizing Pride Month 2021 in Ottumwa during Tuesday's council meeting.

"You know, this should be a little bit of a moment of reflection for us as a community," Councilman Marc Roe said. "We say we're for equal rights, but we tend to see our actions sometimes speak just a little bit differently than what our words say.

"I'm fully supportive of the city supporting this. And I'm quite uncertain why we're even debating the issue. This isn't something we shouldn't be sitting here talking about, but just saying, 'Yes, we're going to support it.'"

The proclamation signed by Lazio highlights "the LGBTQ community has much to celebrate in terms of business and professional achievements ... and life-affirming family relationships and is a vital part of our culture."

Lily Streeby, an LGBTQ resident, spoke of a trip to Chicago in which she saw a flagpole displaying a pride flag, and experienced an atmosphere that was comfortable.

"I saw a city that fully embraced all of their community, and felt welcomed in a city I had never seen before," she said. "We're not asking for every building to be lined with rainbows, but we are asking for a small symbol of respect to many members of our community. Quite frankly, it's slightly disappointing that this has to be up for debate."

Lily's mom, Kolby Streeby, who is on the Ottumwa Pride board of directors and a youth counselor at Ottumwa High School, spoke of the strides that have been made in the school district to bring the LGBTQ community into the schools.

"I started the Gay-Straight Alliance at OHS four years ago and I had five students in my class," she said. "I now have over 40. I do feel that they are becoming more accepted and willing to come out of their shell. I feel like they are supported in the school district, but I would love to see them supported in our city as well."

Cara Galloway also serves on the board with Streeby, and was disappointed the proclamation discussion was buried at the end of the meeting, though the proclamation itself wasn't originally part of the agenda.

Lazio debated whether to simply sign a mayoral proclamation, or put it in front of the council, but the council members made his decision easy.

"I didn't understand why we would need to have a discussion. It's an internationally recognized month," councilwoman Holly Berg said.

Councilman Matt Dalbey echoed his colleagues.

"I think this is a way for us to bring things together, that we mean what we say," he said. "And we are an all-inclusive community. We have a lot of different groups and ethnicities, and we're one community. That pretty much says it all, and I think it's time we start living by it."

City Administrator Philip Rath and director of community development Zach Simonson both referenced the city's comprehensive plan, of which one of the core tenets is celebrating diversity.

"This reminded me that we did include language in there not just observing Pride Month, but also taking some time to work on local history," Simonson said. "The National Preservation Commission Alliance has shared a tool that takes an inventory of local historic sites that were important to the gay community, and if there are people in town with Pride or other organizations that have anything they can share, we can try to work on that as a project."

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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