Political Notebook: More Bay Area cities fly Pride flag during June

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 10, 2020
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The city of Orinda is flying the Pride flag this month. Photo: Courtesy city of Orinda
The city of Orinda is flying the Pride flag this month. Photo: Courtesy city of Orinda

The number of Bay Area cities flying the rainbow flag during June continues to grow, putting added pressure on their municipal counterparts that have yet to follow suit. It comes as LGBTQ leaders in San Mateo and Contra Costa counties expect to see every city and town in their jurisdictions celebrate Pride Month in some manner for the first time this year.

As of Wednesday, June 10, the Pride flag is now flying in the Peninsula cities of Belmont, Brisbane, Daly City, Half Moon Bay, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, and South San Francisco. It will soon be flying in front of San Bruno's City Hall, as its City Council adopted a flag policy at its meeting Tuesday, June 9, and instructed city staff to raise the international symbol for the LGBTQ community on the flagpole in front of their civic building.

A previous mayor had made the decision on their own to fly the rainbow flag, noted current Mayor Rico Medina, "and it did not go over well." Thus, he said he requested that the city adopt a policy regarding requests to fly ceremonial flags going forward that would require a vote by the full council.

"In talking to some other elected officials, it was clear having a flag policy was important," said Medina.

The council on a unanimous 5-0 vote adopted both the flag policy and approved raising the Pride flag this month.

"It is time to be fully inclusive of everybody, and I support this," said City Councilman Marty Medina, no relation to the mayor. "I look forward to its placement at City Hall if we can get to that. That is where it should be."

Praising the decision was San Bruno resident Stephen Seymour, who used to live near the Stonewall Inn in New York City, whose patrons rose up against police harassment in 1969. Their doing so kicked off both the modern LGBTQ rights movement and annual Pride parades held the last Sunday of June in Manhattan and San Francisco to commemorate the historic event.

During the council's meeting, Seymour noted he had been asking the city to fly the Pride flag for the past five years in support of its LGBTQ residents.

"We live in the Bay Area not far from San Francisco. This flag should fly proudly in front of City Hall," said Seymour, noting that he has "many family members who are gay and I love dearly."

Another resident, Kris Perez, a "momma bear" of a gay son who was bullied in school due to his sexual orientation, stressed how important it is for LGBTQ people and their families to see not only their city government but local businesses and other institutions displaying the rainbow flag to show their support and acceptance.

"When we saw the rainbow flag ... it let us know we were welcome and included," said Perez, adding that she only hears "good comments" from people about her Pride flag she flies in front of the family's home.

Rainbow flags fly throughout East Bay

Across the bay in Contra Costa County, the rainbow flag can now be seen flying in Antioch, Clayton, Concord, El Cerrito, Hercules, Lafayette, Martinez, Orinda, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Richmond, and Walnut Creek. It should be raised in San Pablo next week, as the City Council there adopted a flag policy in May.

"Following adoption of said policy, and in accordance with the new policy procedure, the City Council will be reviewing a formal request from one of our councilmembers to fly and post the LGBTQ Rainbow Flag at the current Civic Center Flag Pole at the upcoming June 15, 2020 City Council meeting for the remainder of the month of June, " replied San Pablo Mayor Arturo Cruz in an email to the B.A.R.

After the Antioch City Council Tuesday adopted a Pride proclamation, Mayor Sean Wright said the rainbow flag would go up the next morning and invited people to come as long as they adhere to the orders to "wear a mask and social distancing."

Flying the flag has become a flashpoint this year in a number of cities in the two counties, as LGBTQ advocates press Pride Visibility campaigns in both. As the B.A.R. reported last week, the City Council in Foster City's denial of the request to fly the flag was met with criticism from the gay pastor of one of its churches, while Danville council members ignored requests from several of their constituents to raise the flag.

City Council members in Brentwood and Oakley did not address the B.A.R.'s inquiries on if their cities would be raising the flag for the first time this year. Both councils are expected to issue Pride Month proclamations when they meet June 23. The following night, June 24, Moraga is expected to issue its Pride Month proclamation.

But unlike its neighboring Lamorinda cities, it will not be flying the rainbow flag.

"My understanding is that it is not the Town's practice to fly any non-governmental flag. Instead, we find other ways to demonstrate our commitment to various issues," the city's current mayor, Kymberleigh N. Korpus, told the B.A.R., pointing to the Pride proclamation as one example.

Lafayette Mayor Mike Anderson, in a video message posted last week, noted how the city would normally hold a ceremony June 1 to raise the rainbow flag. But that was canceled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. And Anderson, who is black, noted the parallels between the LGBTQ community's fight for equal rights to the current protests led by Black Lives Matter activists outraged by the continued killings of African Americans at the hands of the police.

"This is another part of our community that has suffered for many, many generations both ridicule and discrimination," he said, adding that LGBTQ people need "to know that we are not judging them on a daily basis. It is the same issue, it just has a different label on it."

Based on the comments of a majority of the San Ramon City Council members at their meeting Tuesday, the city southeast of Mt. Diablo is likely to approve flying the rainbow flag later this month. The city issued a Pride proclamation this week, has added pro-LGBTQ messages to a city-controlled bulletin board, and is lighting its City Hall in the colors of the rainbow.

It was expected to have adopted a flag policy earlier this month, but the item was pushed back to the council's June 23 meeting. More than a dozen people beseeched the council during public comment at this week's meeting to raise the rainbow flag in front of City Hall.

In response to the suggestions that the town was not supporting LGBTQ people by not flying the flag, City Councilman Dave Hudson suggested a special meeting be held so the matter could be addressed sooner.

"This is not what people were looking for tonight. I will leave it at that," said Hudson, after being advised by the city's mayor and city attorney that they could not discuss the flag matter since it had not been agendized for the meeting.

City Councilman Phil O'Loane also expressed his frustration that the flag request had been delayed.

"This is not an item that should have been held off until the end of June," said O'Loane. "That is like talking about Christmas in January."

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on lesbian Oakland Council President Rebecca Kaplan's re-election launch this fall.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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