Galesburg City Council on Monday approved a resolution celebrating LGBTQIA Pride Month and along with it approving the flying of the Pride flag at City Hall.
Despite approving virtually the same ordinance for the past two years discussion around the issue was controversial.
An amendment to fly the flag passed 4-2-1, (Bradley Hix, Dwight White, Sarah Davis, and Steve Cheesman voting in favor) with a resolution recognizing it as Pride Month passing 6-1 (only Evan Miller opposing).
A majority of the Council before the meeting asked the Pride flag not to be flown at City Hall for fear of legal challenges and setting a precedent that any cause could fly their flag.
This caught the attention of many members of the public who attended the meeting and spoke, for well over an hour on this one issue.
Some public comments focused on how the flag is a signal that this is a welcoming and inclusive community.
Some speakers mentioned that not flying the flag this year wouldn’t be as egregious if hadn’t been flown the past two years.
Ward 6 Councilmember Sarah Davis who identifies as the Council’s only openly queer member, said actions like the City not flying the flag “snowball” into more bigoted and oppressive actions and laws.
Future Flag ordinance?
Council signaled interest in developing a flag ordinance for the future though, with Ward 5 Member Heather Acerra saying that’s something the recently hired legislative legal counsel could help with.
Ward 7 Council member Steve Cheesman said “common sense and decency,” say the City should fly the flag this June and then Council should come up with a flag ordinance.
Acting City Attorney Paul Mangieri says legally the City could deny flying the flag of any interest group they found distasteful, for example, if they were petitioned to fly the Nazi flag.
Mangieri says the First Amendment doesn’t prevent a government entity from expressing a view or that they have to allow every view to be presented.
He says in the absence of a flag policy, it’s really up to the City Council what kind of flags they will allow.
Heather Acerra says she had concerns about flying the flag in part because the Pride flag doesn’t necessarily represent the values of all her constituents.
She also suggested there might be other ways to show the town is welcoming to the LGBTQIA community like have like the Pride flag at the Welcome Center year round.