It’s May 22 — Harvey Milk Day commemorating the slain LGBTQ civil rights leader from San Francisco. Throughout Orange County, the rainbow Gay Pride flag is flying in Milk’s memory. Except in Anaheim, where it is supposed to but is not.
The photo above was taken this morning just before 9AM. City hall in Anaheim. Do you see a Rainbow Gay Pride flag anywhere? I don’t.
In June 2016, in the wake of the shooting massacre at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, the Anaheim City Council unanimously (a 4-0 vote) moved to fly the Pride Flag in front of City hall below the official city flag between Harvey Milk Day and the end of the Pride Month in June.
That flag should be flying now and it is not.
According to the motion adopted last year, the flag should be hoisted on Monday morning, 5/22. The just been published in the agenda for 5/23, staff is saying that is it not authorized fly it on the official flagpole in front of city hall due to some municipal code section prohibiting it.
When the council approved the annual flying of the gay pride flag in June 2016, this concern was brought forward by staff and council overruled them unanimously. Greg Garcia, the deputy city manager, assured the council — which included the author of the motion, then-Councilmember Jordan Brandman, the only LGBTQ member of the council — that this code section would be resolved by January 2017.
This didn’t happen.
Now, city staff is recommending to provide “recognition mitigation.” Garcia says he learned this upon further review. This is a lie. There’s a recorded meeting where this issue was discussed and he was the presenter. It’s hard to cover your ass when it’s exposed on video. Revisionist history?
The screw up — on Harvey Milk Day — to not fly the Gay Pride flag with the flag of our nation, state and the city in an official place of reverence should be offensive beyond measure to everyone in Anaheim and Orange County. Is this really what the “City of Kindess” — as Mayor Tait like to claim — wants to demonstrate?
My sources tell me that Tait just got back from Denmark (an international conference — with Greg Garcia! — the author of the staff report). This needs to be fixed now. Mr. Garcia needs to apologize for his error before it’s too late. Time to make a phone call Mayor Tait. How about it other members of the City Council?
Let’s get that flag flying.
Here’s a letter from the Progressive Interfaith Alliance of Orange County:
On June 21, 2016, in the wake of the murder of 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL., LGBTQ and ally community members of the City of Anaheim came and laid their pain and suffering before you. We lined the walkways up to and on the walls of the Anaheim City Hall Council Chamber with the faces of the slain.
We, members of the Anaheim community, made a simple request of the the council: See our faces!
We asked the Council to look into the faces of dead and to also see our faces. We asked you to not only recognize the dead in Orlando but also the dead that exist here in Anaheim and across this nation.
We asked to you see the faces of the dead and look into the eyes of our LGBTQ youth, who believe they have no other alternative than to take their own lives as well as those who have their lives taken from them.
We asked the Council to look into the faces the dead from Orlando and to not only memorialize those lost lives with a symbolic tribute but also saying that Anaheim will not forget to remember the lives lost here in our City.
We asked the City Council to raise the LGBTQ Pride flag in Friendship Plaza alongside the flags of this great city, state, and nation and by doing so to remind our community that Anaheim in all its actions aims to be a City of kindness, hope, and love.
We were honored and granted our request. On June 21 by a 4-0 vote the Council moved and approved to have the LGBTQ Pride flag raised on the city flag poles in Friendship Plaza annually from May 22 to June 30 in honor of Harvey Milk Day through June, national LGBTQ Pride month.
I will remind the Council that today is May 22, 2017, a day when the LGBTQ members of our community across California and this nation remember the birth of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official who was assassinated on November 27, 1978. It was heartbreaking to see that Pride flag is not flying in Friendship Plaza at Anaheim City Hall today as promised.
I understand that concerns have been raised that flying the Pride flag on the flagpoles in Friendship Plaza may not be in alignment with the Anaheim municipal code (11.08.040). This issue was raised the night the motion passed during and exchange between staff and the Council. Per the Council meeting minutes for June 21, 2016, proactively Councilperson Murray specifically “suggested that a followup protocol could be considered to address the precedent setting aspect of this action.”
I understand that Councilperson Brandman brought it again to the attention of the staff in late 2016. I understand that the city staff agreed to have a code “fix” in place by January 2017. I understand that Council has not acted to reconcile the actions of the Council and municipal code nor has neither, the staff or the council reached to the LGBTQ leadership who specifically led the initiative and requested the motion on June 21, 2016 to inform us that the LGBTQ Pride flag would not be flown in Friendship Plaza as promised.
This understanding does not erase the pain I felt this morning when I passed City Hall and saw the flag was not there.
Yes, tomorrow May 23, 2017, the Council is entertaining the request of the staff, “to display” not “to fly” the flag at the City Hall and yes, the Council will be entertaining the idea of lighting up the ARTIC with “multicolored lights” (a common practice at the ARTIC) without any reference to it being done in the symbolic traditional LGBTQ pride colors format or scheme.
None of this makes up for the disregard that our municipal and elected officials once again show for the plight and pain of the LGBTQ members of the Anaheim community. Members of the LGBTQ community are continually pushed to the margins and back into the closet by society at large.
We cannot be pushed to the sidelines by broken promises by our local government officials any longer.
It was a proud day when the LGBTQ Pride flag flew over Friendship Plaza. It was a day that symbolically stated the City of Anaheim sees me and will hold me as a member of our community as my authentic self. That flag stated to me and the millions of others who saw that flag flying in Friendship Plaza whether it be in person, in the news or on social media, “You are not alone” and you will no longer be forced you into the closet Anaheim is your city Anaheim is a City of kindness and compassion.
Everyday in this country LGBTQ people who are also people of color, Muslims (and other religious minorities), immigrants, elderly, poor, and disabled suffer the indignity of having their rights suppressed, their voices silenced, and their lives marginalized. As members of the Anaheim community and the Anaheim family we cannot either by intentional action or negligence allow members of our Anaheim community be pressed to the margins. The actions (or inaction) of the Council and staff over the last year have betrayed the LGBTQ and by extension all minority groups in Anaheim. By not taking action to ensure that the LGBTQ Pride flag is flown or to address it in a timely manner speaks to the fact that maybe I was duped. I have to ask the question: “Does this City of Kindness see me?”
Councilmembers, you hold in your hands as a public trust not only to care for and protect the citizenry of the people of Anaheim but also heart of this community. When we, the members of this community select you to represent us, we bestow upon you a right and responsibility to represent us with your hearts as well as your words. We bestow upon you the ability to make change and in the words of Unitarian minister Theodore Parker to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.