The rainbow flag flies on the main flagpole of the California state Capitol to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month on Monday, June 17, 2019.

The rainbow flag flies on the main flagpole of the California state Capitol to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Renée C. Byer, Sacramento Bee/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Huntington Beach City Council members, on a vote split narrowly along party lines, decided recently — after two hours of sometimes tense public comment — to reverse a 2021 decision to raise the rainbow Pride flag for six weeks each spring. The chamber was full of an audience seemingly as divided as the council on the subject.

The proposal, introduced by newly elected Councilman Pat Burns, a conservative, will allow only flags representing the United States, state of California, Orange County, city of Huntington Beach, POW/MIA and the U.S. military to be displayed on city property.

The agenda item, without spelling it out in so many words, effectively targeted the Pride flag because it was the only previously city-approved banner that was barred from city-owned flagpoles going forward.

LGBTQ activists expressed disappointment at the passage of the agenda item. To them, it erased the progress made two years ago when the previous council voted to fly the Pride flag at City Hall every Pride Month, which falls in June.

Burns, who was backed with votes by his conservative colleagues Mayor Tony Strickland, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark and Casey McKeon, protested that he wasn’t taking an anti- gay stance.

“It’s not about getting rid of the Pride flag. I have a nephew and a niece that are both gay, and we love them dearly, “ Burns told the crowd. “But in my family, we recognize everyone equally. ... Let ‘s just stick with our beautiful American flag and everything else.”

Peter Levi, regional director of the Anti- Defamation League of Orange County / Long Beach, urged officials to reject Burns ‘ ordinance proposal in a comment submitted to the City Council in advance of last week ‘s meeting. The city received hundreds of emails about the measure, council members acknowledged.

“Prohibiting the display of Pride flags because they are allegedly ‘divisive’ sends a dangerous message to the LGBTQ + community and allies, “ Levi wrote. “The change in Huntington Beach policy will actively send the message that they are not welcome here, that they do not belong, while emboldening extremists.”

At least one opponent of the new policy suggested that maybe the move should prevent Huntington Beach from being considered a host city for the L.A. 2028 Summer Olympics. Assuming the city does host surfing competitions five years from now, the City Council majority at that time would be faced with either revamping the flag policy or carving out an exemption for the Olympic banner.

(c)2023 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.)

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