Republicans on the Huntington Beach City Council, in California, sought to ban the LGBTQ Pride flag from flying over city hall. They achieved their goal by pushing through an ordinance that only permits flying government flags on the flagpole.
The council voted 4-3, along party lines, to preliminarily approve the new ordinance, with supporters attempting to cast themselves as proponents of “inclusion,” on the grounds that the Pride flag — and any other flags recognizing specific groups of people — are divisive.
The final policy governing which flags can be flown will be voted on — and likely approved — at the board’s Feb. 21 meeting.
Councilman Pat Burns, a Republican who sponsored the amended policy, argued that the city should only fly the city, state, and national flags, along with occasionally flying the county flag and flags supporting prisoners of war and each branch of the military, reports The Voice of OC.
“We, the City of Huntington Beach, are one community with many different cultures and people. All are equally valued members of our community, and none are to be treated differently or discriminated against,” Burns wrote in a memo explaining his proposal. He added that the city “should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive.
The council voted 6-0 to fly the Pride flag during June 2021, following the lead of other Southern California cities. But social conservatives lamented the decision, arguing that supporting LGBTQ rights takes a side on a social issue that runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs.
Under the newly approved policy, only government flags would be allowed to fly over city hall — with the aforementioned exceptions for military flags — and any changes to that policy would require the council to pass an ordinance outlining those amendments.
The proposal garnered much feedback, with over 275 people sending letters to the city to express their opinion.
According to city staff, at least 228 letters supported keeping the current policy of allowing the Pride flag to remain in place, while 46 urged the city to adopt the new restrictions.
Similarly, the overwhelming majority of public commenters who attended the city council meeting on Tuesday night expressed support for the Pride flag, rejecting arguments that it offends people who disagree with LGBTQ rights or excludes the straight community.
“So you want to avoid actions that could be perceived as divisive? I don’t think that’s going too well for you this evening,” public commenter Margaret Robinson told the council, even as she correctly predicted that the Republican majority would do whatever it wants, regardless of public sentiment.
“I’m a realist, I know this will pass 4-3, but my positive take on this whole debacle is we now see who you are and how you intend to govern,” Robinson said.
“It’s not the place of government at any level to pick favorites among groups,” public commenter Steven Quinn argued. “There is no NRA flag, no Israeli flag, no Christian flag outside of city hall… Similarly there should be no flags celebrating a race, creed, or gender flag.”
Councilman Dan Kalmick, a Democrat, argued that the city already had a flag policy in place, and that the overall policy should not be changed. He appeared to imply that Republicans were simply pushing through new rules in order to hide their true intentions by attacking a symbol of the LGBTQ community.
“If you don’t want to fly the Pride flag, just make a motion…to eliminate the previous resolution to fly the Pride flag,” he said.
But Burns argued that he was hoping to “unify” the city so that no residents, regardless of their identities or views, felt excluded. He added that he has a nephew and niece who are gay and that he doesn’t treat them differently, attempting to rebut any charges of homophobia.
“It’s not about getting rid of the Pride flag,” he said. “I believe we are all equal and we don’t need titles or anything, and that the flags we have that represent our government are what’s important to unify us and get over this divisive titling.”
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