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Costa Mesa council to consider new flag policy — as well as whether to display pride flag at City Hall

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A Gay Pride flag flies outside the Washington National Cathedral in Washington last October. The Costa Mesa City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to display the flag at City Hall in honor of Harvey Milk Day.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Costa Mesa City Council will consider adopting a new policy Tuesday that would potentially clear the way to fly commemorative flags such as the pride flag at City Hall.

Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds asked city staff last month to draft a resolution for council consideration that would authorize displaying the rainbow banner at the seat of local government.

As proposed, the pride flag would be unfurled at City Hall annually from May 22 to June 30.

May 22 is Harvey Milk Day, which honors the man who became the first openly gay elected official in state history when he took his seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk was assassinated in 1978, less than a year after taking office, and is widely recognized as a pioneering gay-rights activist.

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June is LGBT Pride Month — an annual celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and commemoration of the history, contributions and sacrifices of those who comprise them.

While Costa Mesa has traditionally raised city, California and American flags, as well as the POW-MIA flag, at municipal facilities, there is currently no formal policy on the books regarding such displays.

The proposed language up for the council’s review “outlines the procedures and standards for the display of flags at city facilities, including the display of commemorative flags at City Hall,” according to a staff report included in Tuesday’s council agenda.

Commemorative flags would only be flown if the council authorizes them “as an expression of the city’s official sentiments,” that report continues. So, should council members adopt the overall flag policy, they would still need to specifically sign off on displaying the pride flag.

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“The city’s flagpoles are to be used exclusively by the city, where the City Council may display a commemorative flag as a form of government expression,” the staff report states. “The city will not display a commemorative flag based on a request from a third party, nor will the city use its flagpoles to sponsor the expression of a third party.”

Additionally, the city could not place a pennant that shows religious preference or encourages a specific vote in a particular election, according to the staff report.

“As our community has re-engaged in human relations efforts and honest conversations about inclusion and diversity, I’ve been heartbroken to hear the experiences of people who are afraid to express who they are or who feel unwelcome by their peers,” Reynolds said Friday. “Honoring Pride is an important and valuable expression from our city to let our LGBT community members, especially our young adults, know: we care about you, and we welcome you.”

However, Councilman Allan Mansoor expressed some concerns in a public Facebook post Friday, writing that the pride flag “may mean different things to different people.”

“To some, it may mean that we should treat everyone with respect — which, if that were the sole symbolism of the flag, I would support it,” he wrote. “To some, however, it may mean intolerance or hostility to anyone who morally or due to religious conviction does not support some of the things in the LGBTQ agenda, even though they do not support harassment or violence.”

“Do we want to play into division on such a controversial issue?” he added.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th St.

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