Cities across Orange County have been debating whether or not to fly the Pride Flag at city hall, with many hoisting the banner, while some city officials decided against it, saying it’s too divisive in the community — a common argument against the flag.
The flag has also pushed a broader resident-driven discussion centered on the LGBTQ community in cities throughout OC.
At least nine cities in Orange County fly the rainbow flag during Pride Month in June.
Other cities — including Rancho Santa Margarita, Westminster and Orange — decided against hoisting the flag.
In Rancho Santa Margarita, 1,276 people signed an online petition and approximately 50 people rallied in front of city hall May 22 urging city officials to raise the flag.
Since then, small groups have met every Saturday to continue rallying in support of the Pride Flag and speakers have gathered at the past two city council meetings to voice their request.
However, a discussion hasn’t appeared on the council’s agenda, despite many vocal residents demanding such an opportunity.
“We have found ourselves up against not only a city council that refuses to even entertain the idea of discussing flying the Pride Flag in an official capacity, but also dealing with some residents who represent a more narrow-minded idea of what the LGBTQ+ community is asking for when we fly this flag.”Maribeth Buczacki, a Rancho Santa Margarita resident who identifies as bisexual and created the petition
At the May 26 City Council meeting, Stephanie Wade, a board representative from Lavender Democrats OC, a political group that focuses on LGBTQ+ issues in Orange County, gave a public comment in support of flying the flag. Wade is also a former Marine and openly identifies as a transgender woman.
“LGBT people have historically been the subject of great discrimition, often from the government itself,” Wade told Voice of OC. “To have the government fly the Pride Flag is a powerful symbol to show the community that the government stands behind LGBT people.”
Wade also said flying the flag is a simple, easy way to send a message of support.
Although the flag item hasn’t appeared on an agenda for the Rancho Margarita City Council, Wade said the effort is spurring community discussion about the issue.
“I think the city council is trying to make it go away by ignoring it, but I think it’s going to come to the floor because there are lots of LGBT people who live in Rancho Santa Margarita and we have lots of allies,” Wade said.
“We aren’t in the closet in the way we once were.”Stephanie Wade, a board representative from Lavender Democrats OC, a political group that focuses on LGBTQ+ issues in Orange County
Wade’s faced some pushback — and rejection — from the local community.
At both meetings on May 26 and June 9, multiple residents misgendered Wade and used religion as the reasoning against celebrating Pride Month in any capacity.
“This display of casual bigotry and downright lies was, frankly, disgusting,” said Buczacki, who was at both meetings. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am incredibly sad to say it is not the first time I’ve heard these tired old slurs against us and our allies, but it was incredibly hard to hear in person.”
Westminster became the latest city to decide against flying the flag at city hall, with city council members voting against flying the flag at the June 22 meeting.
Councilman Carlos Manzo voted in support and Councilman Tai Do abstained from voting, while the rest of the council voted against the motion.
“We need to think of our city as a whole. I am in support of the LGBT community, but we cannot display a flag for everything we support on community property.”Westminster Councilwoman Kimberly Ho
In Orange, City Councilwoman Arianna Barrios brought up the discussion of potentially raising the flag at both the May 11 and June 8 meetings.
Both times, the majority of the council said they would rather continue flying only the U.S., California and city flags at city hall.
“I’d like to maintain that policy when it comes to flag poles only from the simple standpoint that we can’t pick and choose, and by limiting it to those entities, we don’t have to make hard choices later on,” Mayor Mark Murphy said during the May 11 council meeting.
At the June 8 meeting, Nancy Brink, who serves as the director of church relations at Chapman University in Orange, gave the city a Pride Flag.
“We don’t want it to cost anything to the City of Orange to do what we are asking,” Brink said during her public comment.
Barrios and Councilwoman Ana Gutierrez were the only members on the council who wanted to fly the flag at Orange City Hall.
Murphy and other council members said if they fly the Pride Flag, it could divide the city and open the door for other groups to demand their flag be raised at city hall as well.
Mayor Pro Tem Kimberlee Nichols talked about possibly agendizing a discussion for a future meeting regarding a general policy for flag-flying at city hall.
For reasons similar to the Orange City Council’s discussion, Fountain Valley city officials voted unanimously in June 2019 to ban flying any non-governmental flags — including the Pride Flag — on city property.
For other cities, the choice to fly the flag was clear.
Santa Ana was the first city to fly the flag at city hall in 2015, and since then, Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Beach have followed suit.
The Orange County Fair and Event Center also flies the flag year-round, despite some pushback.
As Pride Month comes to a conclusion, some city officials said the Pride Flag would divide residents, despite echoing support for the LGBTQ community.
At the June 8 meeting, Orange City City Councilman Chip Monaco echoed this sentiment:
“Chip Monaco, the individual, would fly that flag in a minute. Councilman Monaco has to take into consideration the people that don’t necessarily agree with what Chip Monaco would do. There’s a very real difference between what I want to do and what I have to do sitting in this chair … I’m conflicted that raising the flag in Orange today would create more of a fight in the community than a discussion.”
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.