'We made history': Shelton raises pride flag for first time

SHELTON — Tomér Harel was visibly emotional Wednesday as, for the first time, the pride flag was raised on the flag pole outside City Hall.

The ceremony, which featured a proclamation recognizing National Pride Month read by Mayor Mark Lauretti in front of dozens of residents,was one that left Harel, who helped bring the event to life, beaming with pride for his city.

“As a proud gay male, I have unfortunately been exposed to discrimination and harassment based on my sexual preference and have heard and seen even more horror stories through friends and partners,” Harel said.

“I know how much it would have meant to me as an adolescent to see the pride flag on display at my hometown’s city hall, and the support, inclusion, and acceptance it stands for,” Harel added. “I felt the need and quite frankly the obligation to make it happen for this generation of LGBTQIA youth.”

Harel praised Lauretti for helping “make history.”

A yoga instructor by trade, Harel said Lauretti is one of his students - and the pair have formed a bond over the past couple years. That friendship led to Wednesday’s flag raising.

"When I started seeing flag raising happening all over Connecticut, I knew we had to do it here in Shelton,” Harel, who has worked in the city the past three years and has been a resident for the past year.

“I reached out to the mayor, and asked him if this is something we can do and he was completely open to the idea,” Harel said. “He let me take the lead with planning and outreach, and a month later we made history.”

Jimmy Tickey, a top aide to Congressman Jim Himes and a LGBTQ elected official in the city, said he helped Harel make connections with various local groups, including the LGBTQ student group at the high school, to help pull together the event.

“I was pleased to help with the city of Shelton’s first-ever pride flag raising,” said Tickey, who serves on the Shelton Planning and Zoning commission. “Some may wonder, why do we need pride? Because for too many for too long they live in the shadows. And because there’s a young person wondering if it gets better, and it does.

“Being you, all of you, is a beautiful thing everyone should feel,” Tickey said.

Tickey added that Connecticut that has made great strides on these issues, and “it is a welcome effort to have our city acknowledge and celebrate all citizens. The Pride flag raising was full of families across Shelton who had a desire to celebrate togetherness and love.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com