Huntington Beach City Council moves ahead with ordinance to stop flying Pride flag on city property

Juniper Osborne holds a sign during the Huntington Beach City Council meeting on Feb. 7.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday night to approve the introduction of an ordinance that would limit the flying of flags on city property to government flags, as well as the POW/MIA flag and the six flags of the U.S. military.

That leaves out the Pride rainbow flag, which the city has flown each June for Pride month since 2021.

Mayor Tony Strickland, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark and Councilmen Pat Burns and Casey McKeon voted to move along Ordinance No. 4283, with Councilman Dan Kalmick and Councilwomen Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton dissenting.


The flag issue dominated public comments for the second straight City Council meeting, with the vast majority of 69 audience members Tuesday night addressing the topic. The council voted by the same 4-3 margin to approve Burns’ agenda item during the Feb. 7 meeting, and to instruct City Atty. Michael Gates to pen the ordinance.

The ordinance, which would add a new Chapter 13.07 to the city’s municipal code regarding display of flags, will come up for a final vote at the next meeting, on March 7. It notes that businesses and individuals may fly any flag they choose on private property, as long as that flying is consistent with other laws.

Before Tuesday’s vote, the City Council heard about three hours of public comments. More than half of the speakers, many of them identifying themselves as part of the LGBTQ community, were against the revised flag ordinance, though the crowd seemed fairly evenly split, and there were more speakers in favor of the move than there had been two weeks ago.

Several of them said the American flag is the true flag of inclusion in this country. Burns wrote in his original item that no members of the community should be treated differently or discriminated against and that the city “should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive.”

Frank Rodriguez, a 31-year-old gay male and member of Gays Against Groomers, said the Pride flag doesn’t represent him. He pulled one out of his pocket and ripped it up during public comments.

Don Kennedy, recently appointed to the Planning Commission by Burns, said limiting the flags that fly on government property is not an attack on ideals.

“Conversely, it’s an act of inclusion,” he said. “It says to the residents that the government is not in the business of picking cause flags. If you pick one and not another, then that act itself becomes exclusionary.”

But Huntington Beach High School students Colin Parrott and Olivia Pham, who are each members of the Huntington Beach Youth Board, had a different perspective.

“Flying this flag signals a safe and welcoming space for all individuals,” Pham said. “The rainbow flag is a beacon of hope.”

Leslie Edwards, a gay Huntington Beach city employee in the Information Services department, also spoke during public comments. Edwards called the four conservatives elected in November part of a vocal minority, noting that Burns, who got the most votes with 37,266, still represented just 28% of registered voters and 19% of the population.

“If you vote yes tonight ... you are only interested in pushing forward your own personal beliefs regardless of the community outcry and the damage it does to the city’s reputation,” she said. “Damaging our reputation, in turn, will cause a loss of income to local businesses and the city as a whole.”

Between this month’s two council meetings, the city indeed has started feeling repercussions from the flag issue. Blue Shield of California Foundation announced it has canceled a two-day retreat at the Waterfront Beach Resort Hilton Hotel in June.

“Stigmatization, hate-violence and discrimination are still major barriers to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ community,” Blue Shield of California Foundation President and CEO Debbie Chang wrote in a letter to the council. “Banning the Pride flag contributes to a hostile and dangerous environment for this community.”

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