Huntington Beach bars LGBTQ pride flag from flying over City Hall

The U.S., California, Huntington Beach, and LGBTQ Pride flags fly outside a building
Huntington Beach raised the LGBTQ pride flag at City Hall for the first time May 22, 2021. On Tuesday, the City Council ended that practice.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

A rainbow flag will no longer be flown each spring at Huntington Beach City Hall in honor of Pride Month.

Huntington Beach City Council members voted Tuesday night — after two hours of sometimes tense public comment — to reverse a 2021 decision to raise the rainbow flag for six weeks each spring. A narrow majority supported a proposal from newly elected Councilmember Pat Burns to limit which flags can fly on city property.

Despite a large crowd packing Tuesday night’s meeting for the flag issue — the majority calling for council members to continue flying the pride flag each spring — city leaders voted 4 to 3 to remove the standard from the city’s rotation.


“It’s not about getting rid of the pride flag. I have a nephew and a niece that are both gay, and we love them dearly,” Burns said Tuesday. “But in my family, we recognize everyone equally. ... Let’s just stick with our beautiful American flag and everything else.”

The newly approved ordinance says only flags representing the United States, state of California, Orange County and the city of Huntington Beach, along with the POW/MIA flag and those representing the six branches of U.S. armed forces, can be flown on city property.

Only the LGBTQ flag was left out from the city’s previously approved banners.

Although Burns’ proposal did not specifically mention the pride flag, Councilmember Dan Kalmick said it clearly targeted the flag that represents “a group of folks who have been marginalized throughout history.”

“If you don’t want to fly the pride flag, let’s come out and say it,” said Kalmick, who voted in the minority against the measure.

Alex Mohajer, an activist who is president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, was among more than 40 people who spoke during nearly two hours of public comment at Tuesday’s meeting. He asked to take the members of the council out to a drag show sometime — an offer that was met with nearly equal applause and derision from the crowd.

“That rainbow flag celebrates what makes us different,” said Mohajer, who identifies as a gay man. “It says, ‘There’s a place for me here.’ ... Please do not divide this community.”


Huntington Beach resident Kathy Carrick was one of the few who expressed support for the agenda item Tuesday.

“Huntington Beach is inclusive,” she said. “The notion that we need a flag to say that is absurd.”

Connie Boardman, who served on the Huntington Beach City Council for eight years and was mayor twice, was one of dozens who spoke against the pride flag measure. Boardman noted that the item would prevent the city from flying the Olympic flag; Huntington Beach hopes to host the surfing competition when the Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028.

“The Olympics stress diversity and inclusion,” Boardman said. “This item is the opposite of that.”

One woman, who declined to give her name but said she was a Christian, called the pride flag divisive. “Only if you’re homophobic,” a woman in the crowd yelled back.

The City Council voted earlier this month to fly the flag in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month.

May 25, 2021

Burns’ argument, though, for the new measure centered on the issue of divisiveness. “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.”


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 to 0 in a May 3 meeting to keep the banner flying throughout the month of June to mark LGBTQ Pride Month.

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 Thursday. The city received hundreds of emails about the measure, council members said Tuesday.

“Prohibiting the display of Pride flags because they are allegedly ‘divisive’ sends a dangerous message to the LGBTQ+ community and allies,” Levi wrote. “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.”

Councilmember Natalie Moser, who also voted against the measure, said she was worried what kind of message this decision would send.

“Many people have been proud of the changing of our narrative, that perhaps we’re not the Florida of California,” she said. “We have made progress, we have moved forward. This proposal halts that progress, it stops it. ... A flag functions as a message, and so does its removal.”

Szabo and Cardine write for Times Community News.