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West Hollywood to reconsider removal of rainbow flag atop City Hall

The West Hollywood City Council will reconsider the recent removal of a rainbow flag from atop City Hall.

After months of public debate over the flag — which was raised above City Hall in June — city officials this month removed the flag, which symbolizes gay pride. During a meeting Tuesday night, council members said the removal should be discussed again at an upcoming meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem John D’Amico said that nobody contacted him to complain while the flag was up, but they did after it was removed.

“Our unconscious denial of the importance of [the flag] by taking it down I think is what rang true,” D’Amico said. The flag “is very political,” he said, and council members “understand what we did and …what it means” to remove it.

About 40% of West Hollywood’s residents identify themselves as gay or lesbian, according to city surveys. There are rainbow-colored crosswalks at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards, and four of the five city council members are gay men.

The council in November unanimously voted to maintain the city’s practice of displaying only the United States, California and City of West Hollywood flags on public facilities. At one meeting, Councilman John Duran said the city “belongs to all of us.”

“It’s not just a city of gay men,” he said. “It belongs to heterosexual people as well, and City Hall belongs to everybody in this community, gay or straight, and let’s not ever give the impression that City Hall has become exclusive to only one part of the West Hollywood community.”

West Hollywood resident Larry Block, a City Council candidate for the 2015 election, suggested the flying of the rainbow flag at a council meeting in June, and it was hung shortly thereafter.

Critics at meetings that followed said there were already numerous symbols of West Hollywood’s well-known LGBT activism displayed, such as the rainbow flags in the medians at Santa Monica Boulevard between Robertson and La Cienega boulevards.

The City Council in November voted to allow City Manager Paul Arevalo to decide when and whether other flags could be flown at City Hall for special occasions, such as LGBT Pride Month in June. The blue, pink and white transgender flag was flown on a City Hall flagpole for the month of November in recognition of Transgender Awareness Month.

Block, who donated a rainbow flag to the city, said Tuesday that “everybody is welcome under the rainbow.”

Council members said they should consider compromises, such as hanging a City of West Hollywood flag with the city symbol in rainbow colors. A rainbow-colored city symbol already is displayed on the vehicles of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in the West Hollywood station.

“All of us … were not in any way meaning to slight the LGBT community,” City Councilman John Heilman said of the flag’s removal. “In fact, it was a recognition that other groups wanted recognition as well.”

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hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson | Google+

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