The West Hollywood City Council acted to calm a major storm over the removal from City Hall of the rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBT rights, by agreeing to reconsider the policy that led to that removal.
During a portion of the council meeting at which council members make comments, four of the five Council members tonight said the policy should be reconsidered. The flag was placed on City Hall in June, Gay Pride month, after an appeal by local activist Larry Block. It was removed on Jan. 8.
The removal came after the Council in November adopted a policy that put the decision about flying “unofficial” flags — not US, California or City of West Hollywood — in the hands of City Manager Paul Arevalo. Councilmember John Duran argued that the city shouldn’t favor the rainbow flag to the exclusion of unofficial flags representing other groups.
The flag’s removal sparked a flurry of complaints from gay people and their supporters prompting stories locally in the Los Angeles Times and on local television stations and in gay media around the world. Some critics of the decision cited West Hollywood’s reputation as a gay haven, noting that 40 percent of the city’s population is comprised of gay men and that it was founded, in part, to ensure LGBT rights.
Councilmember John D’Amico cited the uproar in supporting a reconsideration of the policy. “When [the flag] was up, no one contacted me, but when it came down, they certainly did,” he said. “The flag is very political, but we can use that.”
“All of us were not intending to slight the LGBT community [by removing the flag],” said Councilmember John Heilman.
Duran was the only council member who did not address the issue during the council meeting, at which dozens of people in the audiences were waving small rainbow flags supplied by Block, who is a candidate in the 2015 City Council race.
Several residents spoke in favor of restoring the flag to City Hall. One, Rudolf Martin, who is heterosexual, made a point of saying he did not feel excluded by the rainbow flag.
Another, Lee Walkup, suggested the city incorporate the rainbow flog colors into the official city flag, which consists of a map of the city composed of white squares against a blue background. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department uses a version of that city logo on its cars in West Hollywood that replace the white squares with rainbow flag colors.
Councilmember Jeffrey Prang liked that idea, saying it was something that could be done quickly.
It isn’t clear if or when the rainbow flag will be restored to City Hall before the council officially reconsiders the policy, which could be in late February or early March.
Block said he was pleased by the council’s decision to reconsider the flag. “Our pride should not be delegated to the city manager,” he said.