By Jim Tortolano
After a nearly four-hour meeting, the Garden Grove City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to place on the next council agenda discussion of whether or not to allow commemorative flags to be displayed on city property.
Tuesday’s vote, which came after more than two hours of public comment, did not address specifically address the original subject of whether to display the rainbow “Gay Pride” flag in City Hall during the month of June.
Earlier in the meeting, the council voted 7-0 to declare June to be LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) Pride Month. However, that unanimity was gone by the time the council took up a request by Council Member Kim Nguyen (District 6) to place an item on the agenda for the next meeting to establish a policy allowing the display of commemorative flags.
Following the deadlock on a proposal by Nguyen at the May 14 meeting to display the gay pride flag in the lobby of the city hall, she brought the matter of a flag policy – similar to one in use in Fullerton – back to Tuesday’s agenda.
The public comments portion before a full house saw 25 speakers addressing the council. Three spoke against display of any but government flags; the remainder expressed support for the rainbow emblem.
Tom Rayber told the council that there is only the need to fly or exhibit one banner. “There is only one flag for America,” he said, referring to the Stars and Stripes. “This is the flag of the people.”
Most other speakers took different stances. Several spoke of the slurs and abuse they had received because of their sexual orientation. One woman told the council that the American flag reminded her of “my rape.”
Danielle Serio, a teacher and roller derby athlete, said that display of the rainbow banner would be comforting to young people struggling with their sexual identity. “Little things mean a lot,” she said. “That flag is powerful. It’s not something trivial.”
But after two hours, it remained controversial. Council Member George Brietigam (District 1) pronounced the discussion to be “emotional.” He added “Emotion is a funny thing. If you have a difference of opinion, you can get labeled racist and homophobic.”
He was joined by Council Member John O’Neill (District 2) in saying that in opposing the gay pride flag’s display in City Hall, he was reflecting what he felt were the wishes of the people he represented.
Kim Nguyen’s motion to place on the agenda for action at the next council meeting – June 11 – consideration of a flag policy similar to that used in Fullerton was seconded by Council Member Thu-Ha Nguyen (District 3). Before that motion could be voted on, it was overtaken by a substitute motion by Brietigam to take up at the next meeting a discussion on whether to allow commemorative flags.
That motion’s approval ended the contest of views, at least until the next time the city council meets.
Also on Tuesday night, the council approved on a 7-0 vote a nepotism policy banning the relatives of council members or top city officials from serving on city commissions, boards and committees.
Categories: Garden Grove