Mayor Robert Garcia raising the LGBTQ Pride Flag after the United States Supreme Court's June 2015 ruling on marriage equality. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.
The LGBTQ Pride Flag that’s raised to celebrate the commencement of the annual Pride Week in Long Beach might very well already be waving in the wind next year, as the city council is set to discuss whether or not to leave the flag up permanently, as a symbol of its support of the LGBTQ community in Long Beach.
The item was authored by the council’s newest member, Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who said that while significant progress has been made for that community in the past few years, states continue to pass discriminatory laws that stunt equality, and legislation continues to stall in Congress, and more thus needs to happen for true equality. In an interview, Pearce said that raising the flag year-round would start the conversation of what else could be done for the LGBTQ community in the city.
“Whenever we have events that are historic or critical to the community we normally raise the flag,” Pearce said. “We wanted to let them know we care about their equity year-round.”
Mayor Robert Garcia, who became the first openly-gay man elected as mayor of Long Beach, raised the flag last June after the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold equal marriage rights for same sex partners. Garcia, who was in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) did not respond to requests for comment.
The item is the first that Pearce has added to a council agenda since being sworn in earlier this month, and she said that this would set a tone for future proposals she’ll bring to the council floor.
Other local cities have carried out similar gestures to their LGBTQ community to varying degrees. Hillcrest, a small neighborhood in San Diego flies the pride flag year round. In 2014, the West Hollywood City Council agreed to a compromise after initially removing its pride flag from its city hall by agreeing to fly a newly designed flag for the city that incorporated the rainbow colors.
Last year, the Santa Ana City Council originally considered flying the flag year-round, but cut it to about five weeks starting on Harvey Milk Day (May 22). The Voice of OC reported that several councilmembers expressed reservations that raising the flag on city property would be “too partial to one segment of the community,” and could lead to adverse reactions to the LGBTQ community.
Porter Gilberg, executive director oft he LGBTQ Center Long Beach, praised Pearce for bringing the item to the council chambers, stating that it was incredibly meaningful to the community to be prioritized in legislation. He added that having the flag fly until true equality is reached nationwide would stand as a strong message that Long Beach is committed to inclusiveness and equity, irregardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. He bristled at the idea that flying the flag year-round would be favoring one group over another.
“When elected officials and cities acknowledge that differences exist between members of the community, including differences in how people are treated, this is not favoritism,” Gilberg said. “Acknowledging that discrimination continues to be a daily experience for LGBTQ people is first and foremost a statement that we have so much more work to be done. I know that when I visit cities that have the LGBTQ Pride flag visible year round that I feel safer, affirmed, and welcome.”
Pearce said that while she considered having the flag fly for an extended amount of time, the year-round approach was more in line with her belief that the city needs to do more to fight for understanding. She’s said she’s confident that it will gain the support of her council colleagues, noting the recent council’s open mindedness and the city’s history of supporting its LGBTQ community.