Pride month is a time of celebration–a month of inclusion, diversity, and hope for millions. Yet something as minor as hanging up a pride flag has recently become a point of contention. Some politicians can’t even let the community have that.
This year, Orange County declared that no Pride flags can be flown outside of county offices. Similar policies have been proposed in various other schools, cities, and districts, most often taking form through only allowing government flags to be raised.
Unfortunately, these proposals are yet another one of many ignorant policies meant to target the LGBTQ+ community–ignorant of the history of the pride flag, ignorant of the people’s voices, and above all, ignorant of the queer community.
First created in 1978, each color on the flag is meant to resemble a value for the nation and humanity writ large to live by. Red is life, orange is healing, yellow is sunlight, green is nature, and blue is serenity. Not only has the flag historically been a symbol of inclusivity, allyship, and safe spaces, but it has become representative of what the nation should stand for.
It is for this very reason that we treat the Pride flag as essential during June. The flag is a symbol of unity–recognizing that LGBTQ+ folks have historically faced unjust circumstances and that the nation stands in solidarity with the community.
The opposition tends to argue either in favor of free speech or arbitrariness. The former argues that raising the flag is a political opinion that is forced onto the entire political jurisdiction. The latter argument states that a pride flag would justify infinite other flags like the BLM or Christian flag.
To address the issue of free speech, a few objections can be made. First, raising the flag does not infringe upon free speech because it is an instance of government free speech. The government must treat each constituent equally, which the Pride flag represents. Raising the flag is not necessarily political nor does it censor the content of those who may disagree, but simply represents the government’s core values. Second, the flag actually increases free speech by encouraging and providing a platform for those who are often silenced to provide their perspectives. This contributes to a society where everyone is free to express themselves long-term.
On the issue of arbitrariness–other flags may have their own particular contexts, but that does not disregard the value of the Pride flag. I would personally not see a problem in raising the BLM flag, but what is important to differentiate between the Pride flag and others is that Pride Month is a national holiday, which means it is already government endorsed. It does not go against core government values and has a particular historical context behind it which contributes to equality. The raising of the flag has been historically significant in the formation of LGBTQ+ rights which could differentiate it from similar flags because of its sheer impact. It is also important to note that the difference between a Christian flag and a Pride flag is that the former is a religion while the latter is not. By separation of church and state, a Christian flag would definitionally violate the first amendment.
In the end, it is quite clear that a government-only flag policy would be counterproductive to the decades of hard work that activists have worked towards to contribute to equality. There are so many important problems out there that policymakers can work on–such as homelessness, disease, and poverty–yet they choose to nitpick on a flag that is there for less than 10% of the year. The priorities are clear and quite unfortunate.