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Pennsylvania Mayor Refuses to Fly Pride Flag at City Hall

Protesters in Reading

The mayor of Reading, Pa., is under fire for refusing to display a Pride flag at City Hall.

Mayor Wally Scott canceled the flag-raising minutes before it was to take place Monday evening, the Reading Eagle reports. It would have been the first time the rainbow flag had flown at the municipal building.

“He has concerns for flying a flag for one specific cause because it could raise questions,” City Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. told the Eagle. “I didn’t even have time to debate that with him.”

“The mayor stated he supports the group [Reading Pride], the cause, but had concerns about raising the flag,” Waltman added.

Osmer Deming, the city’s acting managing director, told the paper, “The mayor’s position is that he does not support flags being up that support political movements, and he views that as a political movement.” There is a POW/MIA flag at City Hall, and the flags of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and France have flown there previously.

The Pride flag was to have been flown through Sunday, when the Reading Pride Celebration will culminate in a festival and concert.

Some council members and others who objected to the mayor’s decision marched for several blocks carrying a rainbow flag, but they did not encounter Scott. One city resident, Ernie Schlegel, said he intends to speak with the city’s human relations commission to see if refusal to fly the flag qualifies as discrimination.

Activists said Scott’s decision shows Reading needs to make more progress on LGBTQ rights. “Even in a city that has ordinances to protect our rights, we have to fight for those,” Ben Renkus, president of Reading Pride, told the Eagle. Michelle Dech, executive director of the LGBT Center of Greater Reading, urged residents to attend next week’s City Council meeting to voice their opinions about the mayor’s action.

Scott, who is in his first term as mayor, will not serve a second one. He lost the Democratic primary to Eddie Moran in May, and Moran will face Republican Louis Perugini in the November general election.

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