In a 4-3 vote, Huntington Beach City Council decided that only American, Prisoner of War/Missing in Action, state, city and county flags could be displayed on city property during their Tuesday Feb. 21 meeting.
The law was approved by the same four councilmembers who approved its draft: Mayor Tony Strickland, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, councilmembers Pat Burns and Casey McKeon.
Added during its draft, the law also allowed the Orange County flag and any flag of the six branches of service to be flown. While the law doesn’t explicitly target the Pride flag, the statute indirectly affected it as a commemorative flag, reversing the action item proposed by former Mayor Kim Carr and Dan Kalmick two years ago.
Along with Kalmick, councilmembers Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton voted against the law.
“I have a strong suspicion that we’re going to be removing quite a few flags unintentionally, including commemorative flags for 9/11 at our fire stations,” Kalmick said. “I’m also guessing we’re going to have problems flying the blackball flag for no surfing because there’s no exemptions for public safety in this ordinance.”
During the designated time for public comments, residents of Huntington Beach presented their arguments to the councilmembers for consideration before making their decisions. Among these residents were high school and middle school-aged students, elderly people and middle-aged adults.
“The role of the city council is to protect its citizens by promoting the safety and security for all,” said Olivia Pham, a student at Huntington Beach High School. “Please protect the citizens of the city by not passing this ordinance, because it significantly harms the well-being of our community by taking away their identity.”
Most in support of flying the Pride flag argued the flag symbolized a safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Those who opposed argued that the American flag represented everyone equally, while flying the Pride flag excluded others.
Councilmembers Kalmick and Moser both voiced their concerns about the repercussions that they may face for banning the Pride flag.
“Our unanimous vote to fly the Pride flag, minus one member who was absent that day, in 2021, and our efforts to keep it flying ongoing in June was and is not about pleasing anyone. It is about keeping people safe,” Moser said. “People who have not been safe over many, many years.”
In the letter, Blue Shield said they wanted to hold a retreat at the Waterfront Beach Resort Hilton Hotel in June. However, upon hearing the council’s decision to ban the display Pride flag, Blue Shield said they could no longer meet in the city until the issue was resolved.
The letter ended with a push for Huntington Beach councilmembers “to do the right thing.”