Residents of neighboring towns have dissimilar reactions to pride flag

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RUTHERFORD -

Two neighboring Bergen County towns will be celebrating LGBT Pride Month for the first time this June. But reactions from residents in the two towns are dissimilar.

Lyndhurst and Rutherford officials will mark the beginning of Pride Month with ceremonies and the raising of the pride flag.

For Christopher Valiante, next Friday will signify a historic moment in his hometown of Lyndhurst.

“I want this to be a giant party,” he says. "It shows me how different things are with the times."

Valiante says that he was scared to go to school when he was a child.

“Because I knew I was different and I knew I was going to get picked on,” he says.

This will be the first time that Lyndhurst officially celebrates LGBT pride and a party is planned for May 31.

But across Route 3 in Rutherford – the decision to fly a pride flag was met with some backlash from a group of residents. Flyers posted around town directed residents to an online petition against the flag raising.

The petition states in part, “Rutherford is made of many different groups and it is wrong to favor one special interest group over another or over the entire town."

Rutherford Councilwoman Maria Begg-Roberson says that she was hurt by the response from the group.

“I believe that we were doing something very positive. As an immigrant myself and as a woman of color, it's so important to me that civil rights are maintained and we honor civil rights,” she says.

As of Tuesday evening, the petition had fewer than 50 signatures.

"You look at these things like petitions and I can't help but wonder what drives a person to try to ruin somebody else's happiness that has nothing to do with them,” Valiante says.

Councilwoman Begg-Roberson says that she hopes the individuals who signed the petition decide to come to the flag-raising event.

"I hope they'll come to see what it's like and to see that it's not a divisive event."

Rutherford’s flag ceremony will be on June 1.

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