EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) - The small city of Emeryville will soon be flying two rainbow flags over City Hall; one for itself and the other for Dublin, a city that ultimately voted not to fly the iconic LGBTQ symbol on Pride Day.
“My goal of this event is to really speak to the people who spoke in opposition and show everyone that government can lift up its own people,” said John Bauters, an openly gay Emeryville councilman.
The double-rainbow event will be held outside Emeryville City Hall on June 8, and the public, including the entire city of Dublin, is invited to come from noon to 1 p.m. State Sen. Scott Wiener, and councilmembers from Albany, Alameda, Berkeley, and possibly Oakland and Hayward will attend.
On May 21, the Dublin City Council voted 3-2 against flying the rainbow flag over its city.
The request had been made by Councilman Shawn Kumagai, the city’s first openly gay elected councilman. He had urged his colleagues to issue a proclamation declaring June as LGBTQ pride month on behalf of the town’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer community and asked that a rainbow flag be allowed to wave above City Hall to mark the occasion. “As a gay man and growing up through the marriage equality fight and serving in the military under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I know we have some work to do in this area,” Kumagai told KTVU.
The councilmembers passed his resolution, but decided against actually hoisting the rainbow flag after about a dozen people spoke against the idea. Among their concerns was setting a precedent for letting all kinds of flags be flown on the pole. The council ultimately decided the public flagpole should be reserved for federal, state and city flags only.
One man said he didn’t see an “s” for “straight” in the LGBTQ flag symbolism and therefore, he argued, the flag wasn’t inclusive of all. Another resident said the gay pride flag essentially is linked to being a pedophile. Another woman posed to the council: “If you agree to fly the rainbow flag, can we fly the Confederate flag, the Black Lives Matter flag, a Communist flag?”
And longtime resident Mike Grant, who owns Guns Unlimited, said if the rainbow flag can fly, so should his NRA flag.
“I’ve been discriminated against for 41 years as a federal firearms dealer by the Democrats,” Grant said.
“My heart broke at some of that testimony,” Bauters said. “I mean, when one of the fastest growing cities in the Bay Area rejects being LGBTQ, what does that say?”
Plus, both Bauters and U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who used to be a Dublin city councilman, said the slippery slope argument didn’t hold much water with them. Swalwell tweeted a photo of the American flag and the rainbow flag, saying that he flies both these flags “365 days a year.”
And if anyone wanted to fly the Confederate or NRA flags, the council would have to approve it – likely hard sells in the Bay Area. But Bauters said that anyone could certainly try to get a resolution passed.
The only flags that can’t be flown on government property are religious ones so as not to violate church and state.
Dublin is the latest East Bay city to consider flying the flag on city property, but may be the first to reject the notion directly. According to a Dublin city staff report, cities such as Antioch, Hayward and Livermore have policies stating which flags are allowed to fly at their civic centers and have not flown the rainbow flag.
But other cities have embraced the rainbow ritual. Emeryville, Walnut Creek, Richmond, Concord and Pleasant Hill all fly the LGBTQ flag on civil property. Bauters said he hopes his double-rainbow event will inspire even more.
“This is not a snub to Dublin,” Bauters said. “This is an effort to combat homophobia and ignorance.”