Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Voters in Huntington Beach, Calif., to weigh in on banning Pride flags on city property

By 37ci3 Mar6,2024

Voters in Huntington Beach, Calif., will decide Tuesday whether to enshrine a ban on the rainbow Pride flag and other non-governmental banners on city property in its municipal charter.

In the seaside community known for its big waves and annual dog surfing contest, Measure B would ban the display of Pride, breast cancer awareness and religious flags at places like City Hall.

The ballot measure builds on an ordinance approved last year by a conservative City Council majority that overturned a previous council vote in favor of flying the rainbow flag on city buildings. Pride bear in June.

“It’s not just that they decided not to fly any non-governmental flags,” said Peg Coley, executive director of the LGBTQ Center of Orange County. “They refuse inclusive politics. They are bringing back diversity and inclusion.”

Measure B would exempt city, county, and state flags, as well as flags of the United States and armed forces, from the ban. Commemorative banners will be allowed, as for POWs or the Olympics.

A unanimous vote by the City Council is required to fly the memorial flag from city facilities.

Critics say Measure B is a thinly veiled attack on the LGBTQ community, but supporters say it removes divisive identity politics from the public square.

LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD called the ballot measure “extreme.”

“Endorsing discrimination is divisive,” GLAAD spokeswoman Barbara Simon said in an email. “We saw it fly proudly in Huntington Beach last month to honor trans teenager Nex Benedict. Pride flags show that LGBTQ people, youth and our allies are welcome.”

Benedict was a 16-year-old transgender student at Oklahoma State who died last month after getting into a fight with three students in the school bathroom.

Huntington Beach has been mired in culture wars in recent years, banning masks and vaccine mandates, denouncing the Biden administration’s immigration policies, criticizing Gov. Gavin Newsom over the state’s homelessness crisis and creating a panel to review children’s library books for sexual content.

In 2022, voters rejected the politically diverse makeup of the previous City Council and nominated four conservative candidates who voted as a bloc. All three left-leaning members are up for re-election this year.

Mayor Gracie Van Der Mark, who said she switched party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2016, voted in favor of the flag ordinance. He said he was frustrated with California’s liberal majority and that it was a way of resisting the administration from the state capital.

“A lot of it is bringing Huntington Beach back to what it used to be,” he said. “A lot of cities are afraid to pull back because they don’t want to be targeted by Sacramento. We’re not.”

Of the nearly 138,000 registered voters in the city, 53,894 are Republicans and 41,412 are Democrats. About 28,000 registered with no party preference.

Tony Strickland, a member of the City Council’s conservative bloc, said policies like the flag ordinance are a return to the city’s Republican roots.

“They want to make MAGA mean something negative,” Strickland said of left-leaning critics. “But President Ronald Reagan said it first. I want to make America great again.”

City Councilwoman Natalie Moser, who voted against the ordinance, said her colleagues on the right are sowing chaos and division in a quiet community.

“It further divides the city, our neighbors,” he said.

Councilman Dan Kalmick, who opposes Measure B, said conservative members are shadowing the city and hurting its pocketbook.

“As a tourist society, I want to shake the ankles of every tourist to extract money from them. “So we have to be open and inclusive and everyone should feel comfortable coming here and spending their money.”

Conservative lawmakers are paying close attention to how Huntington Beach is handling the culture wars. During Pride Month last year, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted against flying the rainbow flag outside county property.

The latest in Orange County hate crimes report It found that hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community increased by 126% in 2022 compared to the previous year.

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By 37ci3

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