Antioch Council unanimously recognizes June as LGBTQ Pride Month, will fly rainbow flag at City Hall

Unanimous votes on both the proclamation and resolution to raise the flag

By Allen Payton

The Antioch City Council voted unanimously, at their meeting Tuesday night, to recognize June as LGBTQ Pride Month in the city. Then, after hearing from both members of the public on both sides of the issue, the also voted 5-0 on the resolution to fly the rainbow “pride” flag at City Hall for the remainder of the month.

Only one person spoke on the proclamation, recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month in Antioch.

I am for the proclamation. I don’t have a problem with that,” said Ralph Hernandez. “The city council and school board…didn’t have any background. It just appears on the agenda and the public doesn’t have the opportunity to see who is supporting, who is opposing. If you as a council can make an effort to inform the public. To say who proposed it. Is it someone who contributed to a council person? Is it a group that has a nefarious reason for putting it on the council agenda.”

The proclamation passed on a 5-0 vote.

“Thank you so much for showing, through this proclamation, the equity of LGBTQ citizens in Antioch,” said Dodi Zotigh, President of the Board of Directors of the Rainbow Community Center in Concord

On the resolution, City Attorney Thomas Smith said, it “would be government speech and symbolizing the city’s official position on the issue.”

The council then heard from the public.

“I implore you to vote in unison to fly the LGBTQ flag in June,” said Jack Rednour, the Executive Director of the Rainbow Community Center. “Antioch must stand tall and show diversity and tolerance are celebrated. LGBTQ rights are not Democratic rights or Republican or religious.

Jana Rifkin Ciofulo was next to speak saying, “I came here to feel welcome and safe. I am a gay woman and mother of a straight daughter. I’m the same human as the conservatives who live here. I have the same morals and values as I did when I was married to a straight man. The rainbow flag is a human flag, not one of religion, not of your god or my god. This flag represents a city of unity.”

Rev. Will McGarvey said, “I have served as pastor at Community Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg. We’re one of the first congregations to embrace LGBTQ people. I encourage you to raise the flag as a symbol that everyone is equal in the law. LGBTQ month began as a protest against police brutality. So, recognizing this is a way to express the welcome to everyone.”

Brian Gibbons, also a pastor, said, “We teach the value of kids. We are conservative Christians and we do have a flag. I don’t think City Hall should be promoting or standing up for one specific special interest group. This is a place where leaders were elected to represent all the people. This flag doesn’t represent all the people. It’s a slippery slope. We would ask you to not use city hall to promote one lifestyle…over the rest of your consituents.”

Mayor Sean Wright then read some emails he received.

“We’re not opposed to the proclamation. We do believe selecting any other flag other than the national, state and city flag,” wrote William and Christie Grey.

Steve Miner’s email read, “The rainbow flag is not inclusive of everyone. The city does not have a policy for raising flags. The city should first adopt a policy for raising flags. Why is this flag being treated any different? The rainbow flag means different things to different people.”

David Clift wrote, “I would encourage you to not raise the LGBT flag at city hall. Will you raise a heterosexual flag or the Christian flag for a month? If the council wants a third-party flag to be raised, the council should first adopt a policy. I would encourage you to vote no.”

Eric Wonderly wrote, “It is my opinion only the federal and state flag, not political or social causes.”

“To me is a disrespect to God. We say ‘One Nation Under God’. One day we all have to give an account to God for what we have done,” wrote Sean Bently.

Dr. Jeffrey Klingler was next to speak, saying, “My concerns are a separate issue of the government display of non-government flags and symbols. Flying a flag…is the government sanctioning one group, possibly, possibly over others in the community. I strongly at an encouragement to send the resolution back to the staff for proper wording. But, it’s better to approve the proclamation and not fly the flag.”

Dodi Zotigh spoke again, saying, “I’m an educator, an Army veteran. I am a cis-gendered lesbian. I grew up in a church that preached being a homosexual was worse than being a murderer. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I was able to come out. I learned what it was to be queer. The pride flag is a symbol. Do you have the courage to make visible that you support all of your residents?”

Eli Contreras shared his own life experience.

“I represent the church. I was a homosexual. For 32 years I lived that life. I had friends who were murdered. I was raped by different men,” he said. “But, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ 14 years ago. I’m not here to say we’re against the LGBT community. We’re against what it represents. There’s a new community. The ex-LGBT community. I represent a group of people coming out of the LGBT community and living right with God. Jesus Christ is the greatest man who ever lived on this earth. If we’re going to start flying flags, we have to fly every flag.”

Another speaker said, “It is understood that the City of Antioch is inclusive of everyone. I believe the proponents. Flying the flag is support for that particular group, specifically for the LGBT lifestyle. It would be discriminatory against other groups. Why don’t you fly the traditional family flag? The City Council, you may feel pressured to vote for this, because you’d be afraid of being labeled. I’m not a Nazi…I know you’ve suffered a lot. I encourage you to not fly the flag.”

Vaughn McElheney said, “I recently moved to Antioch,” then showed a photo that she described as the original rainbow flags made in 1978. “I was lucky enough to be a volunteer at the Rainbow Community Center…where they made the flags. I do hope you support this resolution.”

“The rainbow flag is not a permanent flag, it’s a flag to be flown during June,” read an email Mayor Sean Wright shared. “This month is for gay, trans, bi, lesbian.”

Ralph Hernandez spoke again, saying, “My position is no, you shouldn’t fly it. It puts one group over another. They are already represented. The U.S. flag, the California flag, the city flag already represents everyone without discrimination. It is a political movement. They’re asking you to advocate for them. It is, in my opinion, it’s going against the U.S. Constitution which already protects their rights, their equal rights. Quite frankly, I’m considering filing with certain organizations, that you are violating the law. You are advocating for one particular group.”

Jaime Catter shared his thoughts, saying, “I’m a former Antioch resident. I hear a lot of discussion about flags. I’m a little bit confrontational. When I see the California flag it doesn’t cheer me up. When I see the American flag, it doesn’t either. There is no official statement that says this is a Christian nation. What are these religious concepts doing to the people? These same people against the rainbow flag are against the theory of evolution.”

Tricia Campbell said, “I’ve lived in Antioch for over 20 years. I’m a teacher…where they are flying the rainbow flag. Antioch, Opportunity Lives Here. I would like to see the City of Antioch back that up. I would encourage you to fly the flag so that those kids and everybody is accepted in this community.

“I am not a citizen of your city. I wish my own city, Vacaville, would have the courage to raise the flag,” said another speaker. I have been a school teacher in your school district for 22 years. I am lesbian. I want to tell people we are 10% of your groups. I have a relationship with my Maker. My Maker told me to stop hiding. So, that’s what I did 20 years ago. Move your city from the McCarthy era into the 21st Century.”

Anastasia Rojack spoke in favor of flying the flag, saying, “I’ve lived here in Antioch all my life. I first realized I was queer when I was 12 years old. It lead me to San Francisco State to major in sexual studies.

Ropriel Beverly said, “I worship, live and am a business owner in the City of Antioch and I am against raising the flag in Antioch. Raising the pride flag is only for a select group of individuals. Let’s not be like other city’s and do what’s trendy.”

Michael Shefrey said, “This topic specifically spoke to me. We adopted our foster son a year ago. This topic hits close to home. Prior to 1978 the pride flag was created by Adolph Hitler and it was a pink triangle. The purpose of that (rainbow) flag is to celebrate love, hope and unity. Be glad you don’t need a straight flag.”

Antioch School Board Trustee Ellie Householder was next to speak, saying she is “a lifelong resident of Antioch (holding her nephew Malachi, whom she introduced). I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the comments. I think they just perfectly highlight the need to raise this flag in this community. I hope by raising this flag that my nephew can be raised without bullying as happened to my family, because my brother is gay. I’m also a devout Christian. Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sin.”

Daniel Patton said, “I would encourage the council to vote no on the flag. I thought it was interesting all the comments of ‘me’ when it’s supposed to be inclusive. I’m a Christian…I think it’s interesting that other Christians are for it. It’s in no hatred…to anybody. There were good points made…based on there not being a policy in place. I know the media is watching. But, by no means should we be pressured to do anything. We’re praying for you. We love everyone in this room.”

Diane Patton then said, “I’ve been a resident of Antioch for the last 10 years. Before you approve any non-official flag flown, we need to have a policy in place…to ensure fair treatment, so that the government would not show favor toward any one group.”

“Could our city be sued for discrimination for flying one flag and not others?” she asked the city attorney. “We’re not always going to agree. We ask that you represent us all.”

Lauren Posada spoke next, saying, “The decision to fly the flag is not for everyone. In reality it speaks divisiveness. The American flag…does not speak race or gender. These flags unite us all. The rainbow and the colors belong to the Christian community. There is a lot of division before you. I pray you would take into consideration. Stay neutral.”

“When I first began this effort before the Mayor’s Conference…what I said at the Mayor’s Conference, 19 cities in this county,” said the next speaker. “Tonight, we have six cities that have not ever raised the flag that are raising it, now. Please add yourself to that number.

Gary Walker Roberts, a former Contra Costa Community College Board Trustee, said, “I’ve been in Antioch for 10 years. I have to say I have been embraced, my husband and I. However, after June there has been a lot of discussion in the community. I have to say that we now have Los Medanos College curriculum for LGBTQIA studies. So, it has to do with education. We look to the lawmakers…we do turn to you for your leadership.”

Ken Rickner was next to speak, saying, “First of all I’d like to apologize if I made you feel uncomfortable. We love you, the Christian community. It’s about God’s word. God hates pride. I hate the fact you turned the rainbow into something against God. You know me. I fight for the homeless. Let’s have homeless month. You talk about people being walked on. I represent love. I’m supposed to represent love.”

Debora Vickery said, “I’ve been a teacher for over 20 years in Antioch. I also want everyone to be felt valued and respected and loved. And I want Antioch to be the best city it can be. But I do believe raising a special interest flag is not uniting. I’m not for anyone being harassed or bullied or denied. But, raising the flag is not going to unite us. It’s going to do the opposite.”

Charlene Rittenour said, “I vote for raising the pride flag. I’m here as an active citizen, a Californian and American. We are a secular America. You get to have freedom of your religion in the privacy of your own buildings. I’m glad you’re going to be making a good representation as public servants.”

The final speaker said, “I’m speaking on behalf of not raising the flag. The original intent was a promise by God not to rain on the earth after the 40-day flood.”

She then quoted from the Bible, saying “Blessed is the man who does not sit in the seat of scoffers. The Bible declares that homosexuality…is an abomination to God. The Lord knows the righteous. We need to do the right thing. This city was founded on Christianity. The plaque on A Street and 10th was dedicated to God.”

The council then took up the matter.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was the first to speak on the mater. “I know this is very difficult for many people. I want to thank the City Attorney for crafting a resolution that offers a difference between government speak and political speak. This resolution does not open the door to any group for their cause. On the contrary it recognizes civil rights movements. I believe, in our democracy, it is incumbent to fight for all. If not government, then who? I support the resolution.”

Councilman Lamar Thorpe was next, saying, “Thank you for expressing that, Joy. I agree with those sentiments. For me it’s more personal, being that my biological mother was gay. So, from my vantage point, this government, our government…I was reminded by one constituent that Antioch is finally catching up to their constituents.”

He then made a motion to approve the resolution. Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock seconded the motion then spoke on the matter.

“Religion for me can’t come into this because of the position I am in. It has to come down to what is fair within the city. I did do some homework on this and I was going in one direction. I was looking at the raising of the flag. It says the American flag goes, first. It has to be the largest of the flags. I have to look at the city as a whole, not just me as a person.”

“It’s great to hear everyone, to come out and speak what’s on their mind,” said Councilmember Monica Wilson. “That’s what it’s like to live in a democracy. We can have different views. We can have different religions. I’m glad that we are inclusive. I see the flag as very inclusive. Like Councilmember Thorpe has said, Antioch we’re catching up. The resolution…allows us to look at other groups that are very inclusive, that don’t spread hate. I therefore vote yes in raising this flag. I’m glad my fellow council members support this, as well.”

Ogorchock then added, “I do agree that we do need a flag policy. I believe we do need to come up with a flag policy so there is not discrimination.”

Mayor Wright then shared his thoughts, saying, “I do thank you for speaking your passion. This is an item that I’ve been thinking about for a year. This came to us last year. Our city attorney said we could not fly the flag. We had to have a policy to fly the flag. My goal with the proclamation is to let my LGBTQ friends know that I love them and respect them. But then we move into a policy should we flags. If you raise the flag you love and respect me. If not, you don’t. That has become the binary. I don’t believe we should fly any flag. So, what’s before us is not a policy. In order to show that I love and respect my LGBTQ friends, I will vote for it, tonight. But, if we have a policy on flying flags, I’ll probably vote no.”

With that the council members voted 5-0 to approve the resolution to fly the rainbow flag at city hall.

2 Comments to “Antioch Council unanimously recognizes June as LGBTQ Pride Month, will fly rainbow flag at City Hall”

  1. Roy says:

    “Charlene Rittenour said, “I vote for raising the pride flag. I’m here as an active citizen, a Californian and American. We are a secular America. You get to have freedom of your religion in the privacy of your own buildings. I’m glad you’re going to be making a good representation as public servants.””

    Freedom of religion in the privacy of our own buildings? But a sexual preference/identity symbol on a government building?

  2. tom says:

    Outrage, imagine our children with hand over heart pledging allegiance to all three flags on one pole,,,, It is high time to vote for a new council for Antioch

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