Hands off our pole: Dublin City Council votes against flying Pride flag

With two Dublin councilmembers stating the Tri-Valley city is not a progressive city like San Francisco, description of the city’s flag pole as sacred, and a litany of anti-LGBT comments from a number of residents, the Dublin City Council on Tuesday voted against a proposal to raise the rainbow Pride flag over the city next month.

A separate item to proclaim June as LGBT month in Dublin, however, was unanimously approved. But the plan to fly the Pride flag at City Hall, introduced by Councilmember Shawn Kumagai, a gay man who was elected to the council last November, was met with discriminatory public comments rarely heard these days within the halls of East Bay government.

Kumagai Shawn
Dublin Councilmember Shawn Kumagai was elected last November. He previously served 17 years in the Navy.

A vast majority of the public registering a dissenting opinion on the flag issue said allowing one group to fly their banner over the city would mean all types of groups, ranging from sports teams to the confederate flag, would be able to do the same.

Joshua Rodriguez, donning the red Make America Great Again hat, favored by supporters of President Trump while he addressed the council, said flying LGBT at city hall is divisive and not supported by Dublin residents. “It is then assumed all of the town is proud and supports this choice,” he said. “There is no ‘S,’ which would stand for ‘straight.’ Therefore, it is not all-inclusive. It does bother me that this is being pushed on the people of this town.”

A Dublin resident who called himself Ketih B. equated the proposal to promoting “sexual decadence” and the “immoral destruction” of societies. The resident added, while addressing the council, that the Pride flag represents “the transgenders” and pedophiles.

Mike Grant, a 30-year resident of Dublin and local gun shop owner said he can identify with the LBGT community’s struggles with discrimination. Like LGBT groups, he said, “The Democrats have been after me for years. That’s 41 years that I’ve been putting up with the gun haters. So I kind of understand how he feels,” he said, referring to the discrimination Kumagai has faced as a gay man. But added, like a failed sanctuary city policy Kumagai had previously backed, “It’s about pushing a private agenda issue out in the Tri-Valley.” Grant later unfurled an NRA flag and asked the council if they would approve flying it at city hall.

Supporters of the Pride flag appeared distressed by the comments. A woman who described herself as a 69-year-old lesbian from San Ramon, appeared on the verge of tears. “I can’t tell you how painful it is for me to sit here and listen to this,” she said. “The rainbow flag stands for love. The freedom to choose who to love. That’s all it is.” She later addressed Kumagai from the lectern and said, “I didn’t think it was going to be like this, Shawn.”

Steve Wright, a Dublin resident, told the council, “People are born gay. It is not a choice. It’s not a cause. It’s not membership.” But three of the five Dublin councilmembers could not be swayed.

After praising “a lot of great speeches” offered during public comment, Councilmember Arun Goel worried about the precedent the city might be making by approving the raising of the LGBT flag, in addition, to the absence of a specific council policy on the issue.

“What type of city are we? We’re a city that cares. We’re a city that is inclusive,” said Goel, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last fall. “But we’re also a small city that has values that chooses to want to identify itself in its own unique ways.”

“I heard today that pole was sacred,” Goel continued. “I heard people point to a flag that says, ‘This gives us integrity. This makes us proud,'” he said. “If we were to do something like this, I’m worried. What is the next step? What is the next ask?” Goel, Councilmember Melissa Hernandez, and Mayor David Haubert voted against the LGBT flag raising.

Kumagai, a 17-year Navy veteran who served a portion of his time under the military’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” policy created during the Clinton administration, offered measured words when responding to opposition for his proposal. “I will not speak to refute the opinions that others hold,” Kumagai said on two occasions. However, he rebutted a contention the issue might attract other groups, perhaps those that may make the city further uncomfortable, will want approval for flag raising in the future.

“In my opinion there is no such thing as a slippery slope,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here as a council to make judgments. Just because we make one call doesn’t mean we have to make a second, or third, or fourth.” Kumagai and Councilmember Jean Josey, also new to the council, voted for the proposal.

“As a gay man, I don’t want to be normalized as a straight person. I just want to be able to live my life and have the same freedoms that everyone else has,” said Kumagai.

He acknowledged many groups are also worthy of recognition by the city and urged for a flag policy later. But realizing the agenda item was unlikely to pass, Kumagai offered an amended proposal, limiting the flag raising to one day on June 1.

The compromise motion appeared to catch Haubert off guard. He paused to offer a substitute motion to avoid registering a roll call vote by council, but was unable to formulate one.

“Are we San Francisco? The answer is no,” said Haubert, who voted against the flag raising. “They’re more progressive and more demonstrative on the national scene and that’s maybe not Dublin.”

Haubert painstakingly assured the audience that Dublin is indeed, an inclusive community that does not condone bigotry or discrimination. “Not supporting flying the flag does not mean we don’t support the LGBT community,” said Haubert. “It means we may have other ways to do it.”

 

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