The Long Beach City Council voted last night to fly the Pride flag for the duration of a flag study to be conducted soon, after hearing mixed emotions regarding the flying of the flag during their regularly scheduled meeting.
Introduced by Second District City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, the measure passed 9-0, after members of the public expressed desires for flags supporting other issues to be raised as well.
When she introduced the item last week, Pearce 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.
Given the public response, Pearce amended her proposal, requesting the city attorney to conduct a study that would help formulate a policy for flags flown at the civic center, so as to be as inclusive as possible.
“I’d say without a doubt all of us on this council support the LGBTQ community, and we have done so not just with our actions and words, but in everything that we do,” said Suzie Price at the outset of the council, once the study was recommended. “I’m glad that we’re asking for a study, because for me, while I’m very supportive of the LGBTQ community and the support for equal rights, I want to make sure that all residents feel represented and that we as a city are not giving special attention to one group or another.”
Throughout the course of public comment, community members made the case for a wide range of options, including not flying the flag because they are opposed to LGBTQ rights, flying the flag in addition to other flags representing populations who have struggled for equality, as well as full support and appreciation for the measure.
Veterans made the case for the purple heart flag to be flown year round, while certain Black Lives Matter protestors made the case for all flags mattering. So if that is the case, the study must be done, because Black Lives Matter is going to say “Hey, our flag should be flown up there too. Because we’ve been dealing with our issues much longer than the Pride community.’”
“The study must be done,” said David Keith. “Jeannine, all the things you said about the issues that the LGBTQ deal with, African Americans are dealing with that. Almost since the beginning of time. And we still don’t have equality."
"Please vote 'no' on this resolution, a resolution that is divisive and not unifying," said a man who identified him as a pastor. He pledged his commitment to traditional marriage and spoke up regarding those among him in the community. Others quoted biblical passages and God's view of homosexuality, calling such an "abomination."
"Because they did not repent, God punished them," said a woman on the public comment podium.
“Other commenters are the perfect example for why this topic needs to be discussed. I want to let you all know personally what kind of message you’re sending,” said James Suazo, recounting his experience of hearing about the Orlando shootings while finishing a night at a gay bar in Long Beach. “I found out other people doing the same thing weren’t even alive at this time. Honestly I wasn’t even ready for that. As someone who has gone through so many trials and tribulations and struggled with my own identity, contemplating suicide [...] seeing that rainbow flag, I cried. To really consider this is a very important matter for our community.”
“I want to thank everybody,” said Pearce after public comment. “Literally everybody that came and spoke tonight. I want to be reflective. We heard about other community members that might have been left out of this flag discussion.”
She mentioned the 150 hate crimes per one million adults were reported against the LGBTQ community in 2014.
“It is a time that I think sometimes we feel we’ve made strides, but sometimes we haven’t,” said Pearce.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson supported the measure, especially the study, which he said will take into account other disenfranchised populations seeking a flag.
“We do have a job to look at all of them,” said Richardson. “I will be supportive of the motion. I hope it aligns with the study.”
The study passed 9-0, with a permanent policy regarding flags to be decided in about 30 days' time.