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Livermore upholds policy on flying commemorative flags at Civic Center

Council authorizes LGBT Pride flag display for remainder of June
Livermore-Flags
The LGBT Pride flag will fly at Livermore Civic Center through the end of June.

As LGBT Pride Month winds down, the rainbow flag can be seen flying at the Livermore Civic Center over the next several days.  

At its June 13 regular meeting, the Livermore City Council upheld its existing policy around flying commemorative flags, which allows them to be displayed as a form of government speech. 

The policy states that the mayor or a councilmember may request the display of a commemorative flag and then the council will consider the request at a formal public meeting.

At the May 23 regular council meeting, Councilmember Bob Carling requested to put a discussion to revisit the policy on a future agenda and to pause flying commemorative flags at the Civic Center until the discussion took place. 

The Pride flag was not displayed at the Civic Center campus until after June 13. 

A recent Supreme Court case originating in Boston served as a catalyst to the Livermore discussion, involving conservative activist Harold Shurtleff who was prohibited by the city of Boston from flying a Christian flag on a flagpole outside of city hall, despite the fact that the flagpole had been used to fly other groups' flags. 

"The flagpole in question was located adjacent to a plaza that is a public forum, and the flagpole and a crank were made available to groups using the plaza to also raise and lower flags of their choosing for the duration of their event in the plaza," Livermore city attorney Jason Alcala wrote in a memorandum explaining the difference between Livermore's policy and Boston's. 

The Supreme Court opinion concluded that the city of Boston did not make the raising and flying of flags by private groups a form of governmental expression, and that its policy and practice had created a public forum that prohibited Boston from refusing to allow the private group to fly a flag based upon viewpoint.

Alcala said during the meeting that because Livermore's policy already reserves the flying of commemorative flags strictly for government speech and does not allow private groups to raise their own flags, it is aligned with the Supreme Court's opinion.

"I was the one who brought this up and largely because we had received several emails from folks asking us about flying some other flags and I think they were confused -- I was confused -- about the decision of the Supreme Court and so my intention in asking for the discussion tonight was to get some clarity," Carling said. 

He added that upon hearing from city staff and Alcala about the differences between the policies in Boston and Livermore he is "happy with our flag policy the way it stands."

After agreeing to uphold its current policy, the council voted unanimously to authorize flying the LGBT Pride flag for the remainder of June. A handful of public speakers shared their views on flying the Pride flag, the majority of which expressed their support for doing so.

The decision also carries a personal connection for two councilmembers, including Brittni Kiick who is an organizer with Livermore Pride and Vice Mayor Gina Bonanno whose late wife, Kimberly Cupps was born and raised in Livermore.

Referring to statistics from The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign, Kiick said, "68% of LGBTQ youth report that they hear negative messages about their identity from their elected officials. Many say they hear nothing from their elected officials. I really want the children and youth and adults and elderly LGBTQ members in Livermore to be part of the tiny 16% of individuals that say they hear positive messages about their identity from their elected officials."

A complete recording of the June 13 City Council meeting is available here.




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Cierra Bailey

About the Author: Cierra Bailey

Cierra is a Livermore native who started her journalism career after college as an editorial intern with the Pleasanton Weekly in 2014. After attending graduate school at Syracuse University, she’s back as the editor of the Vine!
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