City Council passed an ordinance in 2019 declaring that the City would fly the rainbow Pride flag every year at City Hall starting on Harvey Milk Day (May 22) and continuing throughout the month of June, which is Pride Month.
The ordinance was championed by City Councilmember Ahmad Zahra, Fullerton’s first openly gay member of Council.
However this year, Harvey Milk Day came and went and no pride flag was raised at City Hall.
When Zahra asked Fullerton’s new acting City Manager Steve Danley about it, Danley replied that the City had lost the flag and may have to order a new one. Zahra had reminded Danley the Monday prior to May 22.
“If I knew, I would have bought [a flag] myself,” Zahra told The Observer. Why didn’t they tell me earlier so I could have gotten one and avoided this whole thing? Sure, these things could happen, but the issue to me is about respect.”
After becoming aware of the issue, some members of the community took matters into their own hands by raising awareness on social media and even buying flags and mailing them to City Hall.
On May 27, City staff installed one of the flags donated by the community above the entrance of City Hall. Notably, the flag was not placed on the flagpole on the lawn of City Hall, as it had been in 2019.
Zahra feels that this, too, was disrespectful.
“What should have been a simple gesture of hope and celebrating our diversity has been turned into a shameful display of disrespect and disregard, not only to the spirit of the resolution passed in 2019, but to the entire LGBTQ+ community that have endured and continue to endure acts of hate, discrimination, and violence,” Zahra said.
The decision to fly the flag separately from the flag pole came from Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who voted against the 2019 resolution to fly the Pride Flag.
“I didn’t think it was that big of an issue exactly where and how to display the flag,” Whitaker said. “The resolution that the Council passed only requires that it be posted annually at City Hall.”
When he learned about the flag’s placement, Councilmember Fred Jung sought to have the flag placed on the flagpole, alongside the American flag, the California flag, and the POW/MIA flag.
“It’s the visual definition of separate but not equal. You have the flag flying separately from the flagpole, which it was on two years ago when it was flown the first time,” Jung said. “Something so benign to most cities, we can’t get right.”
When asked for comment, Whitaker said, “I think the question of equal or unequal is kind of a strange question because obviously the American flag, our national flag, represents all our people, all of our citizenry, regardless of any differences that they might have. And the Pride flag represents a sub-group of the American citizenry…I mean no disrespect, but to declare them [the flags] equivalent is not really accurate, in terms of importance or prestige or vested mutual interest everyone has. If I was truly against or harbored any animosity, it wouldn’t be flying out there now. I think it’s in a very prominent placement and it’s the first thing you see when you’re passing City Hall.”
To contact Council Members you may call (714) 738-6311 or email them at Council@cityoffullerton.com.
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