Huntington Beach is moving forward with a plan that would ban the city from flying the LGBTQ flag, as well as others, at City Hall.
In a 4-3 vote along party lines, the City Council voted Tuesday night to advance Republican Council member Pat Burns’ proposal, which would direct the city manager to craft an ordinance that would only allow the flying of the American, POW/MIA, State of California, Huntington Beach and Orange County flags, as well as those of the six branches of the U.S. military.
The move would in effect reverse a 2021 vote by the city to fly the Pride flag from May 22 – Harvey Milk Day – through the month of June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month.
Tuesday’s vote was met with boos and jeers from members of the public. During the public comment portion of the meeting, most spoke against the proposed ordinance, describing it as thinly veiled way to discriminate against LGBTQ people while arguing that the Pride flag is a small gesture with a powerful meaning to an often-marginalized group.
“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,” former mayor Connie Boardman said during public comments.
Burns shared that a nephew and niece of his are gay and that he loves them equally. His proposal, he argued, is not about discrimination. Instead, he said, it is about avoiding “divisive titling.”
“It has nothing to do with segregating or being anything else to another group. It has nothing to do with that. It’s recognizing we are one,” Burns said.
The Democratic members of the council, however, pushed back on Burns’ claim.
“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,” council member Rhonda Bolton said.
Council member Dan Kalmick pointed out that the body had previously passed a policy that allows members to vote to fly whatever flag they want to fly. Burns’ proposal, he argued, would remove the council’s ability to make decisions, which is what members were elected to do.
Furthermore, he pointed out, the ordinance would mean that if Huntington Beach were to host any events during the 2028 Olympics, the council would need to vote to amend the ordinance in order to fly the Olympic flag.
Council member Natalie Moser argued that the ordinance could also hurt the city’s chances of hosting Olympic events, given that the International Olympic Committee values gender equality, diversity and inclusion. Huntington Beach regularly hosts professional surfing tournaments.
Burns’ proposal would not only alienate LGBTQ people within Huntington Beach but also could drive away tourists, Moser said. She added that Huntington Beach has worked to reframe its image away from being the “Florida of California” – a moniker used by some liberals to deride what they perceive as discriminatory policies and behaviors in the city – and that the ordinance would represent a step back.
“We have made progress. We have moved forward. We have made many, including myself, proud to live, to do business, to start businesses and to visit here … This agenda item, this proposal, halts that progress. It stops it,” Moser said.
The ordinance is slated to be presented to the city council during its Feb. 21 meeting.
Source: NBC Los Angeles
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