Two school districts in California have banned the display of LGBTQ+ Pride flags in a move that has been criticised by parents and residents as “disconcerting” and “un-American”.
On Tuesday (12 September), the Southern California city of Temecula school district outlawed all flags other than the US and state flags with a 3-2 vote, while Bay Area town Sunol banned Pride flags specifically, voting 2-1 in favour.
Temecula’s board decision comes after the approval of a plan to ‘out’ children to parents if they disclose being trans at school in August.
One Temecula resident and Navy veteran who spoke at the board meeting asked: “How delicate is your sense of democracy that it’s threatened by a Pride flag?
“Taking down a Pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted,” he said, as reported by ABC7 Los Angeles. “How un-American is that? You’re telling them, ‘Go into the closet. Be quiet. We don’t want to see you. We don’t want to acknowledge you.’”
In Sunol, some concerned parents kept their children home from school the next day amid the anti-LGBTQ+ hostility of the board meeting, with one describing it as “scary.”
“It’s disconcerting, it’s scary, it’s not right. We’re reeling and trying to figure out how to push back against this”, parent Matthew Sylvester told The Mercury News.
“Everyone saw what went down and felt it, and we’re not okay with it,” Sylvester added. “It seems like recall is one of our only choices at this point.”
The Gilbert Baker Foundation, an organisation named after the political activist who designed the first rainbow flag in 1978, has labelled similar bans across the US a “disturbing new trend.”
The foundation called LGBTQ+ flag bans “part of a larger and insidious rise in American conservative censorship, including book banning, school curriculum changes, language shaming and restriction of reproductive rights“.
“Make no mistake; right-wing groups want to roll back LGBTQ+ rights, and they’re starting with banning the Rainbow Flag,” said Charley Beal, president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation. “It’s part of a huge conservative trend to censor minority rights across America.
“There were 10 bans in September 2022 alone.
“Every month brings a new threat to LGBTQ+ rights and equality. We must remain vigilant.”
The foundation has tracked more than 15 communities and school departments across the US passing regulations removing all rainbow flags since 2022, including Cold Spring, New York, Stoughton, Massachusetts, Davis, Utah, and Huntington Beach, California.
In June 2023, the Hamtramck City Council in Detroit, Michigan unanimously voted to ban LGBTQ+ flags from public buildings under the guise of religious freedom.
The ruling also banned flags with racist and political views and was passed after three hours of public debate after its initial introduction by council member Mohammed Hassan.
Hassan argued that he was “working for the people” and “what the majority of the people like”, with fellow city councillor Nadeem Choudhury noting that LGBTQ+ people should respect Muslim sensibilities.
“Why do you have to have the flag shown on government property to be represented?” Choudhury said, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.
“You’re already represented. We already know who you are … By making this [about] bigotry … it’s making it like you want to hate us.”
Last month, a California store owner was shot and killed during a dispute over an LGBTQ+ Pride flag displayed outside her business.
On 18 August, Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station deputies were alerted to reports of a shooting at the Mag.Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, north of San Bernadino.
Laura Ann Carleton, 66, was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency services, with officials investigating the case later learning that the suspect “made several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store before shooting Carleton.”