WATSONVILLE—The LGBTQ Pride flag will fly in place of the city of Watsonville flag at the Civic Plaza in June after the Watsonville City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution put forth by Mayor Jimmy Dutra, the city’s first openly gay person to hold that office.
The resolution passed 5-2, with councilmen Aurelio Gonzalez and Lowell Hurst dissenting. Both said they were fine with the decision but not with the process the city took to fly the flag. They also took exception to flying the flag in place of the city flag.
“I think it’s important that we be equitable with everybody in the community and allow them the same access and opportunities to be able to fly their flags if they choose to,” Gonzalez said. “Procedurally, I think we have to change this up just a little bit to allow that flexibility, so we don’t have to continuously be making resolutions for the new flags that want to be flown. The city would have a better direction of how to handle anybody who wants to fly a flag in the future.”
The city flies the U.S., California and city flags at the Civic Plaza in front of the Library entrance, but the city does not have a flag policy. It must display the U.S. and state flags to comply with Chapter 1-The Flag of Title 4 of the United States Code.
Gonzalez said the City Council was “setting a precedent” of how future situations might be handled.
“If we allow one flag to fly the whole month without our city flag, are we going to do that for the next flag and the next flag,” he said.
But Dutra said the same process has been used previously—they approved the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag in 1990 and the city of Watsonville flag in 2010—and that it is important that the City Council be the body that votes on whether a flag can fly or not.
“What happens if we do a blanket policy and some right-wing group wants to fly their flag? Under that policy we’re going to have to fly that flag,” Dutra said.
Councilwoman Rebecca Garcia, however, agreed with Gonzalez and Hurst, saying that the City should put a flag policy in place for future groups or people looking to fly their flags at city buildings.
“It seems to me that we really do need to establish a flag policy to address other flag requests,” she said. “[Dutra] mentioned doing it individually, I don’t think we should be doing it individually. I think it should be a policy for all flags.”
According to the Library of Congress, LGBTQ Pride Month is celebrated each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall Riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
The rainbow flag was popularized as a symbol of the gay community by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978.
Dutra called the passing of the resolution a “very big moment” for the LGBTQ community.
“Thank you for all those people who supported the LGBTQ community this evening,” he said.