A Huntington Beach City Council decision over what flags to fly in front of city government buildings made earlier this week received increased scrutiny on Thursday with more LGBT groups demanding that the rainbow-striped gay pride flag be allowed to fly again.
The controversy dates back to 2021 when the Huntington Beach City Council voted to allow the gay pride flag to fly during the gay pride month of June. In 2022, it flew again. However, many in Huntington Beach began to feel that the flag was more divisive than inclusive, and that flying the flag to prove that the community was inclusive was counterintuitive. Other questions over the flag also came up up over it not being an official government or military flag, as most locales usually limit permitted flags to those categories.
As a result, Councilmember Pat Burns, a Republican who was recently elected in to the Council, brought forth a proposal this week that would limit the flags being allowed to be flown in front of government buildings to United States flag, the California state flag, the city flag, the county flag, the POW/MIA flag and flags for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Space Force.
“It has nothing to do with segregating or being anything else to another group,” noted Burns. “It has nothing to do with that. It’s recognizing we are one.”
During the meeting on Tuesday, several former and current lawmakers challenged reasoning.
“This is a small gesture that recognizes the value of our residents and visitor who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, a gesture that shows the city sees them and values them,” said former Mayor Connie Boardman.
Democratic Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton added that “The fact that we have symbols that have a special meaning to certain segments of the community does not mean that other segments of the community are excluded.”
Opponents, noted that the majority of letters from residents sent in before the meeting supported the flag being up during pride month, while proponents of the new proposal pointed to the many residents in attendance who came in support.
In a party-line vote, the proposal passed 4-3 on Tuesday. In the following days, LGBT groups have pushed for a reversal on the proposal, with many nearby cities now being pushed to pass similar local legislation by local residents. Anne-Marie Katz, a Southern California pollster over LGBT issues, noted that the Huntington Beach issue had been particularly divisive as opposed to other recent controversies involving the LGBT community.
“This one has been getting a lot of attention,” Katz told the Globe on Thursday. “It’s a combination of something LGBT being taken away instead of expanded on, a fight over what inclusiveness actually means, and just a general divide on the issue in one of the redder areas of the state.”
“What is noticeable is that no one is saying anything remotely close to having rights being taken away, nor has anyone said anything about the flag not being allowed to be flown anywhere else. We started a few polls on Wednesday, and we got some answers from those in favor of LGBT rights thinking that the city banned the flag altogether. All that happened is that the city revised the flag standard to government and military flags only. That’s it. People are still allowed to fly the flags they want to, and after this, I expect a few more residents will bring out gay pride flags come June.”
As of Thursday, there is no current proposal to reverse the flag policy that was passed earlier this week.
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