A week after barring the Pride Flag from flying over county property, Orange County Supervisors unanimously voted to recognize June as Pride Month.
Supervisors said it was important to recognize and respect the LGBTQ+ community before the discussion led two supervisors to scream at one another over the flag issue during their Tuesday meeting.
Last Tuesday, the OC Board of Supervisors narrowly voted to ban the rainbow Pride Flag and other flags from flying on county government property, calling the rainbow banner divisive.
The new flag policy only allows county, state and U.S. flags, as well as the prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action flag, to be hoisted at the county.
The idea of flying a Pride Flag on government property is often split down political lines, like most recently in Huntington Beach.
But Supervisor Doug Chaffee, a Democrat, voted to ban the flag last week alongside Supervisors Andrew Do and Don Wagner, both Republicans.
Supervisors Katrina Foley and Vicente Sarmiento, two Democrats who voted against the policy, loudly expressed their disappointment over fellow supervisors’ decision not to fly the Pride Flag during Tuesday’s discussion.
“I’m disappointed it didn’t go forward but right now what we’re talking about is simply recognizing June as Pride Month,” Sarmiento said. “There is nothing wrong with supporting people that you love.”
He said bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community is a public health crisis – something that the OC Human Rights Commission has said is increasing over the years.
The Commission’s annual hate crime report released September shows an 83% increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community in 2021.
Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have increased by 2,100% since 2017, according to the commission.
Do and Wagner defended the decision not to fly the flag, alongside Chaffee, a Democrat who was largely ostracized by his party during the last election when they decided to not endorse him.
Do said his flag policy was not done to slight the LGBTQ+ community.
He agreed with Wagner that the issue “has been hijacked by a few with a political agenda.”
“But Pride Month itself is a different thing,” Do said. “It’s sowing acceptance, tolerance.”
Wagner recognized that the Pride Month resolution has been passed before, but said tactics from some members in LGBTQ community pushing resolutions like this have changed.
He called on his colleagues to denounce any displays similar to activist Rose Montoya, who posed topless on the White House South Lawn on Saturday during a pride celebration.
President Joe Biden’s press secretary condemned that action, and said Montoya would not be welcomed at future White House events.
No vote was ever taken on Wagner’s idea.
Chaffee also reaffirmed his vote on the flag policy, despite repeated critiques from members of his own party.
“That was the right decision. I make no apologies for it,” Chaffee said. “I am a Democrat. But that party doesn’t particularly influence me. I was not endorsed. So in a way that frees me to make my own decisions.”
He supported Tuesday’s resolution and said the board often passes similar resolutions recognizing various months and occasions
“There’s another one coming up – my favorite – every November 3 is World Kindness Day,” he said.
But moments later, some of his colleagues began shouting at one another across the dais.
Foley insisted that Do’s call to limit the county flag pole to only three flags was clearly done to block the Pride Flag, pointing out that her resolution to fly the flag was set aside by Wagner in favor of Do’s.
“If you had brought that item at any other time than the heels of Chairman Wagner denying our request to bring the Pride Flag forward, it might not have been seemingly connected,” Foley said. “It was obvious to me that Chairman Wagner orchestrated the whole thing.”
“You teed up the divisive issue!” Wagner yelled. “You have been the arbiter of disrespect!”
The two shouted back and forth at one another several times, before Foley ultimately called for a vote and the supervisors unanimously passed the resolution recognizing June as Pride Month.
The new flag policy has sparked criticism from other elected officials across Orange County, including also at the state level with condemnation from State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and State Senator Tom Umberg.
On Twitter, the Governor’s office called out the supervisors’ decision to ban the flag during Pride month.
“This is a bigoted attack on LGBTQ+ Californians,” the tweet reads. “We will fight for the visibility, safety, & respect this community deserves–especially in our own backyard.”
Congressman Lou Correa said the action by the supervisors does not represent Orange County’s values.
“During Pride Month, we should be uplifting LGBTQ+ history and voices to show the world that our community welcomes all, no matter who you are or who you love,” Correa said in a statement.
“Our County should be supporting Pride every day and everywhere—not because it is divisive, but because it is inclusive of all who call Orange County home.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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