Hamtramck, Michigan, a two-square-mile city outside of Detroit, voted unanimously Wednesday to ban LGBTQ flags from city properties, adding to more than two dozen municipalities and school districts across the country that have passed similar restrictions.
The Hamtramck City Council cited religious freedom as the reason for the ban, after numerous residents said during a three-hour public debate that the pride flag clashes with their religious beliefs.
Hamtramck’s new policy also bans flags with racist and political views, but, like many other communities that have placed restrictions on flag flying, the debate primarily hinged on pride flags.
Dozens of other communities have imposed restrictions that prevent pride flags from being flown on public property, according to the Gilbert Baker Foundation, a group named after the rainbow flag’s designer that tracks such bans.
Last week, Orange County, California, voted to restrict flags other than the national, state and prisoner of war flags on municipal buildings—effectively banning pride flags at county properties despite voting to recognize pride month Tuesday.
In southern California, Huntington Beach voted in February to enact a similar measure, as did Redlands and Delano in March.
In August 2022, Cold Spring, New York, restricted the types of flags flying on municipal property to U.S., state and POW flags only, after receiving a request to fly LGBTQ and Ukranian flags.
In April 2022, Southington, Connecticut, near Hartford, passed the same type of policy, restricting flags to U.S., state and POW for municipal buildings.
Delaware, Ohio, enacted a policy only allowing those three types of flags in March 2022.
In addition to municipalities, at least 20 school districts have restructured flag policies to exclude pride flags, according to the Gilbert Baker Foundation. Some companies, including Exxon, banned non-company flags, garnering backlash from employees who felt it effectively served as a pride flag ban. Most recently, Starbucks was under fire for limiting pride decorations, but the company denied those claims and said employees could display pride decor.
The pride flag was designed by Gilbert Baker at the request of Harvey Milk, a former San Francisco City Supervisor and the first openly gay elected official in California. The rainbow flag has been a symbol of pride and support for the LGBTQ community since it debuted in June 1978.
The slew of flag restrictions on town- and city-owned properties largely stemmed from a May 2022 Supreme Court decision. The court found Boston was at fault when officials rejected a request to fly a religious flag at City Hall, ruling the city didn’t have a legal right to bar that particular flag because it had no official policies about what kind of flags it allowed, and largely allowed any flags to fly on request. This prompted several communities—like Delaware, Ohio, which cited the ruling—to make a more stringent policy about flags, with most municipalities enacting restrictions deciding to only allow U.S., state and POW flags. In almost every case so far, flag policies have been changed to only allow those three flags, but local debates during votes on the policies have almost always focused on the pride flag. The issue is also more political in other situations, and has been spurred on by national conversations about flags, including a bill filed in 2021 that would ban all flags except the U.S. flag from being flown at U.S. embassies. On a state level, a Republican member of the Florida House filed a bill aiming to limit which flags were allowed to be flown in the state—the pride flag would not have been allowed—but the bill died in May.
From SoCal to NY, Cities Across the Country Are Banning the Rainbow Flag (San Francisco Standard)
Hamtramck council bans LGBTQ flags from city property after months of intense debate (Detroit Free Press)
Florida GOP Proposal Would Ban Pride Flag—But Let Confederate Flag Fly At State Buildings (Forbes)
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