Huntington Beach, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, will no longer fly the LGBTQ+ Pride flag at City Hall in the spring, the City Council decided Tuesday.
There was a large crowd at the council meeting, which saw “two hours of sometimes tense public comment” by more than 40 people before the council voted 4-3 to adopt a list of approved flags that doesn’t include the Pride banner, the Los Angeles Times reports. The council had voted two years ago to display the rainbow flag for six weeks every spring.
Pat Burns, a new member of the council, had proposed the new list without the Pride flag, stating in a report that the city “should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive.”
He said he had no issue with LGBTQ+ people. “It’s not about getting rid of the Pride flag. I have a nephew and a niece that are both gay, and we love them dearly,” Burns said Tuesday, according to the Times. “But in my family, we recognize everyone equally. ... Let’s just stick with our beautiful American flag and everything else.”
Under the ordinance approved Tuesday, “only flags representing the United States, state of California, Orange County and the city of Huntington Beach, along with the POW/MIA flag and those representing the six branches of U.S. armed forces, can be flown on city property,” the Times reports. “Only the LGBTQ flag was left out from the city’s previously approved banners.”
Dan Kalmick, a council member who voted against the move, said the ordinance obviously targets “a group of folks who have been marginalized throughout history.”
Most of the public commenters favored keeping the Pride flag. “That rainbow flag celebrates what makes us different,” said Alex Mohajer, a gay man and president of the Stonewall Democratic Club. “It says, ‘There’s a place for me here.’ ... Please do not divide this community.” He also proposed taking council members to a drag show, “an offer that was met with nearly equal applause and derision from the crowd,” the Times notes.
Connie Boardman, a former Huntington Beach mayor and council member, said the ordinance wouldn’t allow the display of the Olympic flag either, and the city, famous for surfing, is looking to host the surfing event in the 2028 Olympics, to be held in L.A. and environs. “The Olympics stress diversity and inclusion,” she said. “This item is the opposite of that.”
One of the few members of the public who spoke in favor of the new ordinance was a woman who wouldn’t give her name but termed the Pride flag divisive. Another attendee responded, “Only if you’re homophobic.”
The Los Angeles LGBT Center issued a statement against Huntington Beach's action.
“The Greater Los Angeles area is for everyone and yet Huntington Beach officials landed on a cliche and reductive approach to making headlines: marginalizing queer Californians (and potentially, millions of tourists) in one fell swoop. It’s alarming and embarrassing that in 2023, on the heels of 150+ anti-LGBTQ legislations ravaging the country, this is what municipal employees are focusing on — not the unhoused, gun safety or the care of our seniors,” saidcenter CEO Joe Hollendoner. “For a city that prides itself on exercising its rights, it’s abhorrently inexcusable to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of the LGBTQ tax-payers; they’re sending us a clear message of hate and shamelessly putting young, queer lives at stake. Huntington Beach’s officials are taking a cue from the political playbooks of extremist politicians across the country — using their hatred of queer and trans people as launching pads for their careers. We will not be relegated to a closeted existence as those days are long behind us, and our people will always find a way to fly our flag loud and proud. I hope the elected officials who voted in favor of the flag ban remember that representation matters, and that the LGBTQ+ community will work tirelessly to elect representatives who champion our rights."