San Pablo’s rainbow flag-raising controversy

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More than ever before, rainbow flags are being flown at government centers to recognize LGBTQ Pride Month. For the first time Monday, the flag was raised in front of the California State Capitol, where it will remain till the end of the month.

But the growing prevalence of such public displays of recognition for the LGBTQ community continues to be controversial.

In San Pablo, the rainbow flag is flying at City Hall after City Council last month passed both the flag display and a proclamation to recognize the month of June as LGBTQ Month.

On Monday, however, a request to fly a second rainbow flag on public property in the city — this time at the San Pablo Library — was denied following a testy exchange between supporters and opponents of the proposal on council.

Councilmember Abel Pineda sought to raise the second flag at San Pablo Library through the remainder of June due to the library’s high visibility. Pineda said it was important to make sure all community members, including residents, employees and visitors, feel welcome in the city, particularly in the wake of a recent alleged hate crime reported in San Francisco following Democratic convention events.

“It is our duty, whether or not it is here in San Pablo, that we make sure everyone here feels welcome,” he said.

The raising of a second flag was opposed by Mayor Rich Kinney and Councilmember Elizabeth Pabon-Alvarado and supported by Councilmember Rita Xavier. Vice Mayor Arturo Cruz was absent.

“I stand for everyone equally, and I like to believe the council would afford the same sympathy and outreach and are willing to put up a straight flag for a straight man, woman, boy or girl who were also beat down,” said Pabon-Alvarado, later adding, “I took office because I want to represent the whole community, not just a small part of the community.”

Mayor Kinney voted against raising the flag at City Hall last month, stating he would have only supported the proclamation recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month. On Monday, he questioned the council over its recent denial of a request for a city proclamation recognizing a National Day of Prayer.

The mayor accused Pineda and Xavier of hypocrisy for denying “a large group of people in our city a simple proclamation.”

“I’d be happy to make a motion to move [the flag at City Hall] over to that pole [at the Library] for more people to see and enjoy,” the mayor said. “But to ask for two flags, and deny Christian people a simple proclamation is really pushing your luck.”

The council did not indicate a desire to move the City Hall rainbow flag.

Xavier and Pineda rejected a proclamation for National Prayer Day saying in part they believe it would violate the separation between church and state and would fail to recognize residents from all religious faiths.

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