The culture wars come to the beach. Sort of

A flying Pride flag near a beach
An L.A. County lifeguard is stirring up a national audience over the county’s Pride flag policy. Within the county, it’s pretty much crickets.
(Adam Fossier / Venice Pride)
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Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our newsletter on the local political scene. It’s county reporter Rebecca Ellis, with help from my City Hall colleagues David Zahniser and Dakota Smith.

An evangelical L.A. County lifeguard who refused to hoist the Pride flag found a sympathetic ear this week as he made his debut on “Fox News @ Night.”

“You’ve got to, a little bit, be thinking that you don’t trust these people,” host Trace Gallagher suggested to his guest Jeffrey Little.

“These people” were Little’s bosses — higher-ups who, Little told viewers, were forcing him to violate his religious beliefs by requiring that he ensure the Pride flag was raised at his stretch of beach during June, Pride Month.

“To me, that doesn’t honor God,” said Little, a county lifeguard for 22 years. “It’s really living a lie.”


After filing a federal lawsuit last month accusing the county of religious discrimination — and then appearing on conservative outlets such as OAN and Fox News — Little and his lawyers have turned the county’s new practice of hoisting Progress Pride flags at county buildings throughout June into outrage fodder for a national audience.

A host of religious publications — the Christian Post, Baptist News Global, the Catholic World Report — pounced on the story. Left-leaning outlets branded Little as a “snowflake conservative,” while conservative groups praised him for “refusing to be browbeaten” and decried his employer as “shameful.”

“Religious freedom UNDER ATTACK … EVEN AT THE BEACH,” the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group, blared on X this week.

The culture wars have arrived on the county’s shores. But among L.A. County employees — ostensibly the ones who would have the most to say — the outrage is nowhere to be found.

“I’m going to be honest with you, our members are not shy,” said David Green, the head of SEIU 721, which represents 55,000 county employees. “I haven’t gotten a single phone call, text or email.”

In legal filings, the Thomas More Society, the conservative legal organization representing Little, has painted its client as one of many county workers who take issue with the Pride flag policy. Paul Jonna, Little’s attorney, wrote in a June 5 declaration that he had heard of “possibly hundreds” of religious accommodation requests similar to Little’s. A protest may be in the works, he wrote.


The county said the real number was less than a dozen, equivalent to less than 0.00012% of the county workforce.

As for the protest…

“I haven’t seen it,” said L.A. County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone, whose agency includes the lifeguard division. “And we’re on Day 13.”

Marrone said there has been some pushback. Last summer, for example, Little took down three flags at the beach where he worked, according to his lawsuit. But for the most part, Marrone said, his employees appreciate the signal of support for LGBTQ+ people.

“I’m not looking at the world with rose-colored glasses,” said Marrone. “Of course, there are people that really don’t support this. But I don’t think it’s that big a number.”

Last year, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to fly the Pride flag at many county facilities during Pride Month — including 260 facilities owned by the Fire Department. The move stands in stark contrast to cities such as Huntington Beach, where voters banned the Pride flag at city buildings, and Downey, where the City Council voted this year to stop flying the Pride flag. The flag still flies at eight county-owned properties in Downey.

“Every county employee who has spoken to me personally has been incredibly supportive of our decision to fly the Pride flag,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who introduced the motion to raise the flags at county buildings last year along with Supervisor Lindsey Horvath. “It means that across the county, even in cities like Downey that took down their Pride flags, LGBTQ residents are seeing the flag in their neighborhoods and on their way to work.”

Terra Russell-Slavin, chief impact officer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said the county’s policy sends a critical message to LGBTQ+ residents, particularly those who’ve moved from states such as Texas that have passed a raft of legislation targeting them in recent years.


“You come to a place like Ginger Rogers Beach and you see that flag and you see … it’s actually the government, in this case lifeguards, they are actively affirming support for the LGBTQ community,” she said. “It makes a world of difference.”

If the county starts allowing certain employees to opt out of raising the flag, that message morphs, said Tom Temprano from Equality California.

“In any attempt to roll back the existing flying of the Pride flag, you’re sending a strong message that you’re backpedaling on your support to the LGBTQ community,” he said. “Period.”

That won’t happen, Horvath said in a statement.

“We will fly the Progress Pride flag proudly all June,” she said.

State of play

— HYDEE IN THE HOT SEAT: A veteran L.A. city prosecutor filed a legal claim this week accusing City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto of retaliating against her for reporting what she called “legal and ethical violations.” Michelle McGinnis, former head of the office’s criminal branch, said she was placed on leave and escorted out of the building after reporting on an array of issues in the city attorney’s office, including “excessive” drinking. McGinnis also accused Feldstein Soto of basing some prosecutorial decisions on “personal relationships” or “perceived political gain.” A Feldstein Soto aide called the allegations untrue.

— MESSINESS AT THE MWD: The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted to place General Manager Adel Hagekhalil on leave Thursday while the agency investigates accusations that he created a toxic work environment.

— BARRINGTON BATTLE: The company that owns West L.A.’s massive Barrington Plaza apartments did not follow city and state law when it moved to evict more than 500 tenants, according to a judge’s tentative ruling. The decision, not yet final, is being hailed as a historic win for renters statewide.

— TACKLING TRAFFIC STOPS: The L.A. City Council voted to instruct city agencies to report on the feasibility of removing some traffic enforcement duties from the Los Angeles Police Department, turning them over to teams of unarmed civilians, while also limiting fines for traffic violations in poorer communities. The study, long sought by a coalition of community groups, would also look at ending the use of stops for minor infractions, such as expired tags.


— MARCH FOR JUSTICE: Hundreds of people marched to L.A. City Hall to demand justice for Johnny Wactor, the television actor who was shot to death after he walked up on a group of catalytic converter thieves in downtown Los Angeles. Councilmember Kevin de León adjourned the council’s meeting in Wactor’s memory, telling the packed chamber that his death was “senseless” — a killing over “a piece of metal.”

— FIGHT FOR THE 14TH: Tenant rights attorney Ysabel Jurado, who is looking to unseat De León in Council District 14, announced this week that she has secured the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party in the race to represent downtown, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock and El Sereno.

— INTO THE DARKNESS: Speaking of De León’s district, the recently constructed 6th Street Viaduct, dubbed the “Ribbon of Light” for its illuminated arches, is now completely dark, thanks to thieves who have repeatedly stripped it of its copper wire. The bridge passes over the Los Angeles River, connecting downtown with Boyle Heights.

— BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: L.A. Mayor Karen Bass and Councilmember Heather Hutt celebrated the distribution of more than $700 million in assistance to Department of Water and Power customers who fell behind on their payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial aid helped customers pay for water, electricity and sewer service, according to the utility.

— BASS VS. BREED: The mayors of L.A. and San Francisco, both the first Black women to lead their cities, have taken some different approaches to combating homelessness, crime and other urban ills. San Francisco Mayor London Breed has endorsed a tough-on-crime state ballot measure, which Bass does not support. Breed also welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s involvement in a case dealing with the removal of homeless encampments, while Bass has worried about the ramifications of a high court ruling.

— CHIEF CLEARED: An LAPD watchdog has cleared former Police Chief Michel Moore of misconduct, finding that allegations he had ordered an investigation into Bass and her USC scholarship were “unfounded.” Florence Yu, the department’s acting inspector general, disclosed her office’s findings during Tuesday’s Police Commission meeting.


— FIGHT OR FLIGHT: Can L.A. fix the traffic hell that surrounds Los Angeles International Airport?

— CAMPUS TAKEOVER: Scores of pro-Palestinian protesters occupied and vandalized a Cal State L.A. student services building on Wednesday, leaving graffiti, shattered windows and scattered wreckage. “It will take time to restore all those spaces and divert significant resources that would otherwise go to academics, student services, or operations,” the school’s president, Berenecea Johnson Eanes, said in a statement.

— ENTERING METH CITY: Los Angeles has a meth problem. That’s the big message this week from the L.A. Times Editorial Board, which says “it’s time to talk about it — frankly, clearly and publicly in a way that we have not yet done.” (The editorial board operates separately from the rest of the newsroom.)

— KREKORIAN COUNTDOWN: L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian has seven months before he’s forced out by term limits. On Monday, he told an audience at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum that he doesn’t yet know what’s next. “I’m not going to go off and move to Vermont and start making organic soap — yet,” he joked, before adding: “I will still be involved in the public conversation one way or the other, for sure.”

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  • Where is Inside Safe? Mayor Bass’ initiative to combat homelessness went into the Westlake neighborhood represented by Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, focusing on 3rd Street at Union Avenue. About 10 people went indoors, according to a Bass spokesperson.
  • On the docket for next week: The L.A. City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to establish a new Charter Reform Commission, a citizens panel that would examine various operations of city government, including the size of the council and the ways in which it operates, including the number of meetings.

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