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Irvine could potentially fly the LGBTQ+ pride flag and other commemorative flags above City Hall depending on the City Council’s decisions Tuesday, the body’s third conversation on flag etiquette in the last year.
Resolutions sponsored by council members Melissa Fox and Farrah Khan call for the city to fly the pride flag every year during June, and set up a policy for displaying flags chosen by the council.
The resolutions come after Fox’s attempt to take action on flying the flag at the council’s last meeting was shut down because it was not agendized along with the council’s recognition of June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
Last year, a similar effort put forward by Fox was shelved by the council in favor of a substitute motion, following two hours of discussion on the issue that turned heated, with council members arguing over whether flying the pride flag could lead to further division in the community.
Public commenters overwhelmingly supported Fox’s proposal, with over two dozen coming forward to ask the council to consider endorsing the suggestion and a handful of commenters stating they were against it.
“I appreciate the community coming out,” Fox said at last year’s meeting. “We need to stand together today and join with the LGBTQ+ community and say love conquers all, and that is what we support here as our community.”
After public comment that night, Councilman Mike Carroll said he appreciated the public commenters and read from a prepared statement.
“Irvine does not need a spectacle of divisiveness,” Carroll said. “As city leaders, we should not be inciting unnecessary and corrosive divisions in our community.”
“There’s no good reason for the city of Irvine to become involved. There’s absolutely nothing that Irvine can add to either side of the debate.”
Carroll said then that the speech was word for word from Fox. Fox clarified her comments were on the city’s decision to speak on The California Values Act, also known as Senate Bill 54, which had no bearing on the LGBTQ+ community.
Carroll proposed a motion letting council members fly flags of their choice in their offices, but not in the council chambers or above City Hall. City Attorney Jeff Melching said the resolution wasn’t necessary, but that it would codify the practice. The motion passed 3-2, with Khan and Fox opposed.
Fox’s original motion calling for the pride flag to be flown above City Hall was never voted on after the substitute motion was put forward.
Carroll said that his substitute motion was not meant to disrespect any flags or organizations, but only to find a compromise and simplify the process.
“It would be pretty intolerant to consider me to be intolerant based on the substitute motion,” Carroll said.
Carroll did not return requests for comment from Voice of OC.
Fox said she hopes that the council will have changed its mind after hearing from the public over the past year, and that its current system — council members flying flags of their choice in their offices — does not do enough.
“I get these emails that’re just heartbreaking, telling me how important it is to see the support of their city, in particular LGBTQ+ youth,” Fox said. “They’ve told me how much it would mean to them, and how devastating it was to not have this supported before.”
Khan said that she was unsure whether or not the vote would change, but said she felt it was still an important issue to discuss.
“I’m really hopeful the council will make the right decision,” Khan said. “I think the community is asking for a public display and that’s what we’re hoping to do.”
Fox and Khan also said that the resolution passed by the council last year failed to expose the flags to the public by just allowing them to be put up in offices because they didn’t reach enough of the community.
“With the offices, I know myself and council member Fox had our flags displayed outside our offices, but it’s really not there for the entire public,” Khan said. “Here it would be a flag above City Hall and we’re hoping it would be more substantial.”
The council will be discussing the issue at Tuesday’s meeting, around the same time as a rally at 3:30 p.m. on the steps of City Hall hosted by Lauren Johnson-Norris and Tammy Kim, both candidates for City Council, asking for the council to fly the flag.
Johnson-Norris serves on the community services commission as Fox’s appointee, and Kim serves on the finance commission as Khan’s appointee.
In a telephone call with Voice of OC on Monday, Fox said she and Khan had originally planned to host, but the council’s meeting time was moved up to 3 p.m. preventing their attendance, and they asked Johnson-Norris and Kim to take their place.
The pride flag resolution “is a tremendously important step,” Fox said. “It reflects the character of our city and its love for diversity and equality and I look forward to seeing those colors fly over our City Hall.”
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.