By Susan Payne
Last week, the City of Huntington Beach made the decision to no longer fly the LGBTQ pride flag over City Hall during Pride Month.
The request was made by newly elected Councilman Pat Burns, who suggested the city draft an ordinance specifying that only standards representing the United States, state of California, Orange County and the city of Huntington Beach, along with the POW/MIA flag can be raised on city property, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The City of Huntington Beach should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive,” Burns stated in a staff report explaining his reasoning for the request. “[We] 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.”
A Huntington Beach spokesperson Jennifer Carey confirmed last week to the LA Times that the six-striped rainbow flag, a symbol of inclusion, is the only other banner approved by members of the council for civic display.
The city first hoisted the Pride flag on May 22, 2021— the birthday of former San Francisco supervisor and civil rights activist Harvey Milk, fatally shot in 1978 — after the City Council voted 6-0 in a May 3 meeting to keep the banner flying throughout the month of June to mark LGBTQ Pride Month, the LA Times reported.
Peter Levi, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County/Long Beach, urged officials to reject Burns’ ordinance proposal in a comment submitted to the City Council on Feb. 2.
“Prohibiting the display of Pride flags because they are allegedly ‘divisive’ sends a dangerous message to the LGBTQ+ community and allies,” Levi stated. “The change in Huntington Beach policy will actively send the message that they are not welcome here, that they do not belong, while emboldening extremists.”
In response to Huntington Beach elected officials barring the LGBTQ flag from flying over City Council during Pride, the Los Angeles LGBT Center issued the following statement:
“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,” said Joe Hollendoner, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “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.