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Commentary: Restoring Pride in Surf City

The LGBTQ Pride flag flies at City Hall during Pride month in 2021.
(File Photo)
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As former City Council members and mayors of Huntington Beach, we lend our collective voice today to discuss the recent flag policy change by the new City Council majority.

The newly elected majority is preparing to eliminate the flying of all nongovernmental and nonmilitary flags on city property. This would include flags of our sister city, the Olympics and local sports teams to commemorate a significant achievement. Regrettably, the true reason behind the proposed ban is in response to the flying of the LGBTQ Pride flag during Pride Month.

At its Feb. 7 meeting, the City Council voted 4-3 to direct staff to draft an ordinance to replace the current flag policy, which requires a vote of the council to fly any kind of commemorative flag on city property.

The current council majority will likely turn deaf ears to this commentary. Nonetheless, we are compelled to express our support for our fellow residents and visitors who are members of the LGBTQ community at a time when hate and extremism are on the rise.

Let’s examine a few of the arguments the new majority used to justify their vote.

We will begin with the assertion that the current flag policy presents a slippery slope. One speaker at the Feb. 7 meeting contended that if the Pride flag was allowed, then the Christian flag should be too. The City Council currently has the authority to determine what, if any, commemorative flags fly on city property. The decision of what flag to fly sits with them, as it should.

Another argument presented was that the Pride flag was not representative of the entire community. We agree with Councilman Burns’ assertion that Surf City should be a united community. However, healthy communities uplift those members who are most in need. The LGBTQ community has historically been marginalized and discriminated against.

It is important to note the unintended consequences of the proposed ordinance. The proposal prohibits other flags, such as those of our sister city, Anjo, Japan, the Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards program, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and, if Huntington Beach is fortunate enough to host the surfing portion in 2028, the Olympic flags on city property.

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Flags communicate a message. For instance, the U.S. flag represents the unwavering American commitment to freedom and liberty. The POW/MIA flag at City Hall is a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that many soldiers have made to protect our freedom. The Pride flag similarly serves as a symbol. It welcomes our LGBTQ neighbors to freely be themselves and rebukes hatred festering in our community.

The impact of the council’s action does more than eliminate a symbol of inclusion; it sends a message to the world that this is a community of intolerance rather than one that stands in solidarity with diverse communities and equal rights.

The Pride flag above City Hall during Pride Month illustrates Surf City welcomes all residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, research shows LGBTQ youth die by suicide at significantly higher rates due to a lack of feeling of belonging. If the sight of the Pride flag can provide even one young person their first sense of belonging in our community, then we believe flying the Pride flag is worth it. It is a flag of unity, not of divisiveness.

With their vote, this council majority generated national negative publicity for Surf City. The decision, if finalized, will have continued repercussions on the city’s reputation and possible future opportunities. If the majority thinks their action ties the hands of future councils, they are wrong. We ask the council to reverse course.

We hold onto hope and ask that you do, too. The City Council will need to approve the new ordinance at the Feb. 21 and March 7 meetings. We encourage you to email the City Council at City.Council@surfcity-hb.org.

Connie Boardman served on the City Council from 2000 to 2004 and from 2010 to 2014 and as mayor in 2002-03 and 2012-13.

Debbie Cook served on the City Council from 2000 to 2008 and as mayor in 2001 and 2007-08.

Kim Carr served on the City Council from 2018 to 2022 and as mayor in 2020-21.

Barbara Delgleize served on the City Council from 2014 to 2022 and as mayor in 2016-17 and 2021-22.

Shirley Dettloff served on the City Council from 1994 to 2000 and as mayor in 1997-98.

Jill Hardy served on the City Council from 2002 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2020 and as mayor in 2004-05 and 2014-15.

Vic Leipzig served on the City Council from 1993 to 1996 and as mayor in 1994-95.

Linda Moulton-Patterson served on the City Council from 1990 to 1994 and as mayor in 1993-94.

Joe Shaw served on the City Council from 2010 to 2014.

Ron Shenkman served on the City Council from 1976 to 1978 and as mayor in 1978-79.

Grace Winchell served on the City Council from 1986 to 1994 and as mayor in 1992-93.

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