Sunday, June 16, 2024

LA County will hoist LGBTQ+ Pride Flag in Downey, despite City Council’s vote to restrict

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An LGBTQ+ Pride will fly on public property in Downey.

A “Raising of the Pride Flag” ceremony is set for Monday, June 3, at the L.A. County Office of Education building in a the city.

The event to kick off June’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month comes on the heels of the five-member City Council’s controversial 3-2 vote earlier in May approving a neutral flag policy, which limits which flags can be displayed on city-owned and maintained property. The only allowed flags on city flagpoles, according to the policy, are the American, Californian, and prisoners-of-war flags.

Downey City Councilmember Horacio Ortiz, who represents District 1, and Mayor Mario Trujillo, who represents District 5, both voted no on the policy at the May 14 council meeting.

  • The L.A. County Office of Education on Imperial Highway in...

    The L.A. County Office of Education on Imperial Highway in Downey. On Monday, June 3, L.A. County officials led by Supervisor Janice Hahn will host a “Raising of the Pride Flag Ceremony” at the office building in response to Downey’s recent neutral flag policy. (Photo by Tom Bray, LA Daily News/SCNG)

  • The L.A. County Office of Education on Imperial Highway in...

    The L.A. County Office of Education on Imperial Highway in Downey. On Monday, June 3, L.A. County officials led by Supervisor Janice Hahn will host a “Raising of the Pride Flag Ceremony” at the office building in response to Downey’s recent neutral flag policy. (Photo by Tom Bray, LA Daily News/SCNG)

  • Outside the Downey City Hall on May 31, 2024. (Photo...

    Outside the Downey City Hall on May 31, 2024. (Photo by Tom Bray, LA Daily News/SCNG

  • Flags outside of the Downey City Hall on May 31,...

    Flags outside of the Downey City Hall on May 31, 2024. (Photo by Tom Bray, LA Daily News/SCNG

  • The L.A. County Office of Education on Imperial Highway in...

    The L.A. County Office of Education on Imperial Highway in Downey. On Monday, June 3, L.A. County officials led by Supervisor Janice Hahn will host a “Raising of the Pride Flag Ceremony” at the office building in response to Downey’s recent neutral flag policy. (Photo by Tom Bray, LA Daily News/SCNG)

  • Flags outside of the Downey City Hall on May 31,...

    Flags outside of the Downey City Hall on May 31, 2024. (Photo by Tom Bray, LA Daily News/SCNG

“This is not progress,” Trujillo, who is Downey’s first openly gay mayor, said at the meeting. “This is a step backward for my city.”

County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes the city, has openly expressed her opposition to the policy, saying on X/Twitter that Downey’s decision “not to fly the Pride Flag” on city property will “not stop us from flying it at all eight of our L.A. County facilities” within the city.

Last year, Hahn and Supervisor Lindsey Horvath led the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote to raise the Pride Progress Flag at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration and all L.A. County facilities during Pride Month.

“There will be pride in Downey this June,” Supervisor Hahn said in a press release announcing Monday’s event. “Despite the recent vote by the Downey City Council, I want our LGBTQ+ Downey residents to know they belong and that they are not only accepted, but celebrated.”

The flying is allowed because Hahn’s ceremony at the Los Angeles County Office of Education is sponsored by Los Angeles County at a county facility “and, therefore, does not fall under the jurisdiction of the City of Downey,” said city Public Informational Coordinator Axel Perez-Beltran.

The flying of rainbow-color Pride progress flags — designed to celebrate diversity and inclusion for the LGBTQI+ community — has been met with controversy and restrictions in other Southern California cities over the last year, including in Redlands, Huntington Beach and Temecula.

The neutral flag issue in Downey was first raised at an April 23 council meeting, when Mayor Pro Tem Hector Sosa requested a neutral flag policy on the city agenda. According to officials, the city’s current flag policy, adopted in 2022, outlines protocols for “the display of federal, state, local and POW/MIA flags on city-owned flagpoles, plus commemorative flags.”

The city defines commemorative flags as ones “that symbolize a historical event, cause, nation or group of people” they choose to honor or commemorate. Such flags can be authorized by the council for a limited period of time, and can be flown below the City of Downey flag at City Hall.

In June 2021, the council voted to display the Pride progress flag during the month of June “going forward as a commemorative flag.” But the new policy reverses that decision.

At the May council meeting, Sosa said that discussing neutral flag policies is “by no means an attempt to silence or spite anyone.” He added that he’s been approached by community members to raise up Christian flags, Blue Lives Matter flags, even an Israeli flag.

“I don’t think it’s our role as elected officials to pick and choose which groups get to fly their flags. Our role is to simply govern, and govern for the residents of the county,” Sosa said. “It’s my opinion that the only flags should be displayed on the American flag, city flag and POW flag.”

In a statement supporting the L.A. County-sponsored event, Mayor Trujillo said that Downey “may have lost this battle, but we will win the war for fairness, equality and acceptance for ALL.” Trujillo, who serves on the Board of Directors for the county’s LGBTQ+ Elected Officials Association, called the City Council vote was a “setback.”

“But I appreciate Supervisor Hahn for her support of the LGBTQ+ community, and for making sure the Pride flag will rise in Downey in 2024,” said Trujillo.

In the news release, Debra Duardo, L.A. County’s superintendent of schools, called the Pride Flag a “powerful symbol” of a “commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

“This flag represents our dedication to creating a safe and affirming environment where every student feels a sense of belonging and well-being,” Duardo said.

Duardo also called it essential to “fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity,” to ensure all schools are places where “all individuals can thrive and be their authentic selves.”

Speakers at Monday’s flag-raising ceremony will include Supervisor Hahn, Trujillo, Equality California President Juan Camacho and others. Long Beach drag entertainer Jewels will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies at the event.

L.A. County’s flag-raising ceremony will take place on Monday, June 3 at 10 a.m. at the county Office of Education, located at 9300 Imperial Hwy. in Downey.

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