After much public comment and discussion, Fullerton City Council decided to restore the Pride flag to the main flagpole outside City Hall at their June 1 meeting.
The discussion was sparked by a decision by Mayor Whitaker to fly the flag separately from the main flagpole on May 27.
Prior to this, the City claimed it lost the Pride flag, and this sparked several members of the public to mail flags to City Hall.
Councilmembers Ahmad Zahra, Fred Jung, and Jesus Silva (who were not consulted on this decision to fly the flag separately) felt the flag should be flown where it was first flown following a resolution passed in 2019—on the main flagpole with the American flag, the California flag, and the POW/MIA flag.
Councilmember Zahra, Fullerton’s first openly gay City Council member, who brought the original resolution in 2019, said, “I want to thank those generous community members who sent flags in to city Hall. But now let’s send our younger generation a renewed message of hope. Let us restore the flag to its intended place…Let us restore that hope so we can truly celebrate our diversity and start working towards a future that we can all build together.”
Councilmember Fred Jung made a motion to restore the Pride flag to the main flagpole.
“June is Pride Month. It’s important for all of us to appreciate that our LGBTQ community want equal rights that are afforded all Americans,” Jung said. “These are our neighbors in our community, and we should afford them the same respect that we demand for ourselves. Symbols matter.”
Mayor Whitaker said that the resolution did not specify where the flag was to be flown at City Hall and that he was following “the letter of the resolution.” He said that other Orange County cities that fly the pride flag do it on separate flag poles. He also expressed hesitancy about making an equivalence between the Pride flag and the American flag.
“I’m not saying at all that our flag is diminished by being paired with other flags,” Whitaker said. “But to declare an equivalence between those flags, I think, is maybe counter productive and not a good idea.”
He eventually agreed to allow the flag to be returned to the main flagpole “against my better judgement.”
Several members of the public weighed in on the placement of the Pride flag.
Stephanie Wade, a former marine infantry officer, a transgender woman, and co-chair of the Lavender Democratic Club said that she found the Mayor’s initial decision to fly the flag separately “extremely disturbing.”
“On a routine basis, I am insulted by store clerks, people in restaurants and bars, simply because I don’t fit a gender binary and adhere to a gender norm that some people think is the only way to be. Yet I hasten to point out that I spent nine years in the Marine Corps defending my rights to live as I am, to dress as I want, and to live as I want,” Wade said. “That Pride flag symbolizes that. It symbolizes a place of safety, and it’s a signal to people that the community, that the city, that the leaders of the city voted, which they did, to support that Pride flag, and it flew on the flagpole in a place of honor.”
Ilse Miranda said that if one flag is going to be flown, then all groups should have a flag representing them.
“I would also ask that there be a pro-Catholic banner, Pro-Life, Pro-Hispanic, Pro-Mexican, Pro-Chinese, Pro-Vietnamese,” Miranda said.
Fullerton resident Miguel Alvarez said, “I’m a Latino gay man who has made Fullerton his home for over 20 years. I went to Fullerton schools, where I was constantly harassed for being gay…The flag says to me that this city is welcoming members of the LGBTQ community…That flag is a symbol that my life matters, when I’m walking downtown, when I’m with my partner, that I get to enjoy myself as a taxpayer in this community. That flag should be with the other flags on the flagpole.”
Tanya McCrory said “I don’t need a flag to show me or tell me that I’m accepted in this country. Flying separate flags is yet one more attempt to divide us rather than unite us… What group is next to demand a flag in order to be recognized? Who gets to decide that? The American flag represents us all.”
Jeff Letourneau said, “I can’t believe that on what was to be a joyous occasion, the first day of Pride Month, that here we are re-fighting a battle that was properly and legally settled two years ago, all due to the actions of you, Mayor Whitaker. I’ve been in this fight for 40 years, 30 of it living with HIV and all the discrimination that goes with that. And I’m telling you your actions are being perceived to a point that is just ripping your city apart, and you are supposed to be the mayor and do the opposite of that.”
Peter Cruz said that taking actions that are disrespectful of the LGBTQ community can also have economic consequences for a city, as people who feel discriminated against will take their business elsewhere.
The Pride flag, now on the main flagpole, will be flown throughout the month of June, which is Pride month.
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