Huntington Beach voters ban Pride flags

Huntington Beach bans Pride Flag

Pride flags will be banned on city property in Huntington Beach after voters approved a measure in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results. Photo: City of Huntington Beach

Pride flags will be banned on city property in Huntington Beach after voters approved a measure in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results.

Measure B was passed by 57% of voters according to unofficial results from the Orange County Registrar of Voters. 

It prohibits the display of Pride, breast cancer awareness and religious flags, among others, although it exempts city, county, and state flags, as well as the federal and armed forces flags.

The charter amendment says the only flags to be displayed by Huntington Beach on city property will be the U.S. flag, California flag, Orange County flag, city flag, POW-MIA flag, the flags of the six Armed Forces, and, during the Summer Olympic Games, the Olympic flag.

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The ballot measure enshrines into the city charter an ordinance approved last year by the Huntington Beach City Council, which eliminated a 2021 council vote that approved flying the Pride flag on city buildings during Pride Month in June.

Critics said the ballot measure is discriminatory, but Huntington Beach city officials argued, with a straight face, that the charter amendment encourages the city to stay “neutral.”

“Our whole goal in bringing Measure B forward was to focus on unity,” Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark told NBC Los Angeles. “We want to remove all special interests and just focus on flags that represent all of us regardless of our race, gender, sexual orientation.”

The passage of Measure B indicates the will of the voters, she said.“We wanted to bring the voters into the decision. Here’s the issue. You decide where you would like it to go,” Van Derk Mark said.

Critics said the Measure B approval is a way to push the LGTQ+ community back into the closet.

The most recent Orange County hate crimes report found a 126% increase in hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community in 2022 compared to 2021.

“It’s a message of ‘We want LGBTQ+ to be less heard in Huntington Beach’,” Peg Coley, the executive director of the LBGTQ Center Orange County, told NBC Los Angeles. “The fact that Huntington Beach had an inclusive policy on the books, and then they are unraveling that policy and taking us backwards send a very loud message.”

The flag-ban measure was proposed last year by Republican Councilmember Pat Burns, who explained in a staff report his ban idea.

“The City of Huntington Beach should avoid actions that could easily or mistakenly be perceived as divisive,” he said. (We) “are one community with many different cultures and people. All are equally valued members of our community, and none are to be treated differently or discriminated against.”

 “People have asked if we can fly other flags, whatever they may be, and I don’t believe that we should fly any other flags but equal flags that represent us all,” Burns said.

Moving forward, a unanimous vote by the city council will be required to fly a commemorative flag at city facilities.

The unofficial election results will be certified at an upcoming council meeting where they will be official.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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