Antioch Council postpones decision on LGBT Pride Month proclamation, flying rainbow flag at city hall

By Allen Payton

At their meeting, last night, upon advice of City Attorney Thomas Smith, the Antioch City Council unanimously voted to postpone a decision on a proclamation recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month in the city and flying the rainbow “pride” flag at city hall. The matter has been moved to the June 11th agenda, which will be the next regular council meeting and the first one in June. ACC052819 LGBT Pride Month Proclamation

“It is more than a proclamation, it is the raising of the flag,” Smith stated. “I would ask for an accompanying resolution and approve them together. I recommend you continue this item and have the city attorney draft a resolution for the raising of the flag recognizing LGBTQ month.”

Each council meeting agenda is set by the mayor and city manager. Items are usually placed on the agenda at the request of a city staff member or council member.

Each council member was asked by the Herald if they had requested that the proclamation be placed on the agenda. Previously, Councilman Lamar Thorpe said he didn’t know how it was placed on the agenda, but that it was proposed by Antioch resident Jack Rednour-Bruckman, the executive director of the Rainbow Center in Concord and that the proposed language came from her.

Mayor Sean Wright suggested asking City Manager Ron Bernal about who requested the flag flying be included in this year’s resolution.

“He spoke to each council member and I am not privy to his discussions with them,” Wright said.

When Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock was asked if she was the one, she responded, “No it was not.” Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts simply answered “no” to the same question. Attempts to reach Councilwoman Monica Wilson with the same question were unsuccessful.

Bernal responded to the same question, “It wasn’t requested by a council member. It was requested by a member of the LGBTQ community.”

When asked, immediately prior to the beginning of the council meeting, if that’s how it works, if a member of the community can send a request for a proclamation to the city manager for him and the mayor to place on the agenda, Bernal did not respond.

Prior to the council’s vote on the matter, members of the public spoke offering their differing opinions.

“It would be…elevating one group’s acts above all others,” said Daniel Patton. “Flags mean different things to different people. The city council should not arbitrarily use flag poles for political expression…whether it be agenda driven. When will the city fly the Christian flag? I serve as a minister at…Threshing Floor Tabernacle. Would it be viewed and welcome, too with all the resolutions?”

“I’ve been a homeowner in Antioch for 16 years. I am middle class. I am an average white male and you fly my flag every day,” Mark Foley said. “I support the staff recommendation. We should not close doors. Let’s be all inclusive. Raise the flag.”

Robin Kluslitz (sp?) was next to speak, saying, “I grew up in Antioch…Class of 2005. When I was growing up there were no positive symbols in Antioch for the LGBT community. When government agency raises the pride flag elected officials are exercising their government speech.”

“The very first house my domestic partner and I purchased was in Antioch. We’ve enjoyed living here,” said Joey Smith. “But there was something missing. We had to leave…to feel comfortable in our relationship outside our home. Eventually we ended up leaving. Your decision…to raise the flag and acknowledge this month is meaningful. Being the 50th anniversary of Stonewall it’s time. Does Antioch want to be a city that is absolutely inclusive of all residents? Does Antioch want to risk losing residents…who don’t feel welcome? Antioch was not the place for me to welcome because I did not feel welcome. Do what is going to be an inclusive and right action. Fly the flag.”

Jack Rednour, the author of the proclamation, spoke next.

“I live here. I pay taxes, here. I run a small business, here. I’m also the Executive Director for the Rainbow Center,” she stated. “East County is underserved. One in four pre-teens commit suicide who are LGBTQ… there are many Christians who are LGBTQ. This isn’t about religion. This is about fulfilling that vision. It’s already been decided. There’s Black History Month, there’s Autism Awareness Month. This is not to exclude, but to include. Show that Antioch is a diverse city that celebrates everyone.”

Rednour then offered to provide a rainbow flag for use by the city, for free.

Written comments by Diana Patton were read by Mayor Wright. “If a flag other than the American flag is to be flown, that the council consider other flags fly, as well,” she wrote.

“I can’t stand by, not saying anything,” said Lauren Posada. “This is my life. This is my heart. With this resolution being brought out…the flag will not be raised without your approval. According to the Bible the rainbow was a promise set in the sky that He would not flood the earth, again. It represents God’s mercy. Telling me to embrace something that violates my convictions is not inclusive. Please, don’t shove your political ideologies down my (throat). I’m asking that you not raise this flag that is dismissive and contrary to my beliefs.”

Nicole Castro was the final public speaker on the matter. “There’s so many differences of opinion. I would ask that you would take everyone’s different opinions into consideration. It’s not about religion. As a believer I celebrate Easter. But I would not think to ask you to fly the Christian flag because I celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, not the Easter Bunny,” she said. “We are a diverse people and want to be inclusive. You stay neutral on this very controversial issue. If you say yes to them, you have to say yes to everyone else. It opens a mess. This is about representing Antioch as a whole, not just a select group. You have to stay neutral.”

The council then took up the matter.

“The mistake of the city is the proclamation contains a resolution,” said Wright.

“It’s a matter of flying the flag that should be separate,” responded City Attorney Smith. “Raising the flag would be a separate item.”

Wilson asked “when would this be coming back to council?”

“I can bring it to the next meeting,” Smith replied.

“I think we need to vote on the council on raising the flag,” said Ogorchock.

“The matter of raising the flag…I should say two things. These types of legal questions, I would generally draft a legal opinion on,” Smith added. “Government speech has a choice means, when you raise the flag you’re speaking as a government speaker or choose to remain silent.

Ogorchock made the motion to postpone. Motts seconded the motion and it passed on a 5-0 vote.

the attachments to this post:

ACC052819 LGBT Pride Month Proclamation
ACC052819 LGBT Pride Month Proclamation

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