The Huntington Beach City Council’s April 30th Agenda included an H item (no. 16, 21-375) submitted by Mayor Carr and Councilmember Kalmick titled “LGBTQ Pride Month Recognition and Flag Raising.” The recommended action includes “Request the City Manager to fly the LGBTQ Pride Flag each year from the 3rd week of May until June 30th in recognition of the contributions of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Community; and, Request the City of Huntington Beach recognize the month of June as LGBTQ Pride Month.” The item was voted on during the Council meeting on Monday, May 3rd. Councilmember Peterson was absent from the meeting.

Adverse reactions greeted the item on social media. Many LGBTQ+ community members celebrated its introduction, claiming that they felt valued and validated. However, the item was also met with open homophobia. Community members vowed to “burn the flag down,” said that the world was built for straight people and claimed that the LGBTQ+ community had never contributed to Huntington Beach. Countless comments advocated for a straight pride celebration.

Though Huntington Beach’s LGBTQ community isn’t vibrant, it is existent. In 2010, Huntington Beach elected its first openly gay City Council member, Joe Shaw. Like most communities, LGBTQ+ individuals are business owners, teachers, neighbors and friends. Their contributions to the community are valid and important.

Huntington Beach scored 59/100 on the Human Rights’ Council’s Municipal Equality Index in 2020. The index measures hospitality towards the LGBTQ+ community and is a fair standard for inclusion. This stands in contrast from neighboring cities such as Irvine, which scored a 93, and Laguna which scored an 83. Item 16 brings visibility, which in turn brings acceptance. Though the presence of a flag is purely ornamental, and the acceptance of Pride Month by Huntington Beach is a formality, it remains crucial to the Huntington Beach LGBTQ+ community as a survey by the Pew Research Center indicated that 77% of the LGBTQ+ community felt that pride events made society more accepting of their identities.

Why pride? To address the main counterargument encountered on social media, it is important to acknowledge why pride month is so important. Pride month allows the LGBTQ+ community, out or not, to celebrate who they love. With over 90% of prime-time media focusing on exclusively straight characters, more than 99 percent of elected officials not identifying as LGBTQ+, and only 29 out of over 195 countries legalizing same-sex marriage, “straight pride month” is the other eleven months of the year.

Picture of a chalk drawing at Wieder Park, Huntington Beach in June 2020. Artist unknown, Photo by Samantha Shaw.

The celebration of the LGBTQ+ community is merely an addition to the measures in Huntington Beach that celebrate its citizens, and not a subtraction of the celebration of heterosexual Huntington Beach civillians.

The purpose of the item isn’t to vilify the heterosexual community or impose a gay lifestyle upon anyone. The purpose is to recognize and uplift LGBTQ+ voices. For every Huntington Beach employee who fears retaliation if their sexuality is revealed, for every closeted HBUHSD senior who cannot ask his boyfriend to prom and for every LGBTQ+ community member who has faced discrimination, this show of solidarity is valuable beyond words.

On Monday, May 3rd the resolution passed 6-0, along with an updated flag policy. The flag will fly proudly over City Hall in June.

Bella Brannon is a senior student at Ocean View High School. Samantha Shaw is a junior student at Huntington Beach High School.

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