Family Week in P-Town Hosts Harassed Arizona Family
Family Week in Provincetown has become an institution for parents and their children to celebrate summer in a tolerant and accepting environment. People from all over the country will descend upon the gay-friendly beach town in the next week, among them the Bermea family of Gilbert, Arizona.
"We are incredibly proud to welcome the Bermea family to Family Week to honor their work to ensure all families are protected in their own communities," said Family Equality Council Director of Programs Brent Wright.
Partners Felix Bermea and Roy Messerschmidt were just a normal couple raising their adopted children. Then, everything changed. For three months the family suffered threatening phone calls, vandalism in their front yard and even a break-in. The family believes that the harassment is motivated by anti-gay bias.
Sean Carlson, New Media Manager of the Family Equality Council (FEC), said that the ordeal has taken a huge toll on the family. Reportedly, their bushes were set on fire, and in another incident the children’s furniture was vandalized with writing. Additionally, the alleged assailant(s) banged on the family’s door repeatedly late one evening.
That’s why the FEC decided to fly the Bermeas to Provincetown for Family Week 2012, thanks to an influx of donations during a recent fundraising campaign. Back in Arizona, the family continues to work with the police to find out who and why this person (or people) has targeted them, making their lives more difficult.
Carlson said that while the police have been cooperative, it took them a while to really get the ball rolling. But a demonstration was held in front of Gilbert City Hall to encourage law enforcement officials to do more. Carlson did not have numbers on hand, but other news sources have placed the attendance at around 50 people.
"The LGBT community has been exceptionally supportive of Felix and Roy," said Carlson, noting that 93 percent of all American counties have LGBT-oriented families living in them. "I think it’s just a matter of where you live. Arizona is the fifth most conservative state in the U.S., if that tells you anything."
According to Carlson, the children have not reported any bullying in school, but they are still frightened about the recent events. That’s why it’s important to welcome them in a community that has a large number of LGBT-friendly citizens.
"Let them have a summer vacation that they can enjoy," Carlson said. To that end, the FEC has provided the Burmea family with a nearly all-expenses paid vacation, including their flight, accommodations and even a rental car for them to explore other areas of Cape Cod. Childcare will also be provided.
"When I heard about what this family has been going through, it broke my heart," said Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler. "We realized immediately that we had an opportunity to lift their spirits and give them the summer vacation they have been denied. No family should have to endure what they have, and we want to make a difference for them in this way."
During a parade at Family Week, the family will serve as Grand Marshals. The event is the largest of its kind in America and is celebrating its 17th year, which coincides with FEC’s 30th anniversary.
"Over the past 30 years we have worked to build a strong community that supports LGBT parents and their children," said Wright. "Today, we have an incredible network of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, who reach across this country. Family Week allows us to bring them all together for one week to celebrate their diversity, connect with one other and commit to help us create a better world for our families."
Throughout the week, families will be able to participate in discussion panels, picnics, kid’s activities and trips to the beach. Family Week 2012 runs from July 28-August 4, honoring the nearly 1 million families that are supported by gay parents.
According to the event’s website, the goal of the week is to "create life-long connections in support of one another, share stories that will open other hearts and minds in their own communities [and] raise their collective voices to create social justice for all families."
For more info, visit www.familyequality.org/