After nearly an hour and a half of public comment and discussion, the Fullerton City Council agreed to return the pride flag to its original location on the main flagpole at their meeting on June 1.
In 2019, council members voted in favor, 3-2, to annually fly the pride flag in front of Fullerton City Hall from May 22 through the end of June for Pride Month. It was hung on the main flagpole alongside the American flag, the California flag, and the POW/MIA flag.
On May 22, the flag was not hung as expected in front of city hall, and according to the Fullerton Observer, Steve Danley, the Fullerton City Manager, said the flag was missing. Once residents became aware, Fullerton City Hall received nearly half a dozen new rainbow flags from community members.
One of the donated flags was hung in front of the City Hall entrance on May 27, but it was separate from the main flagpole, the Observer reported.
On Tuesday night, the first day of Pride Month, Fullerton residents spoke during public comment, and voiced their concerns about the missing and then displaced pride flag.
Former Fullerton resident and transgender advocate Stephanie Wade approached the council to speak about the incident with the flag. As co-chair of the Lavender Democratic Club of Orange County, Wade said that she and several members were disturbed.
"On a routine basis, I am insulted by store clerks, people in restaurants and bars, simply because I don't fit a gender binary and adhere to a gender norm that some people think is the only way to be," Wade said. "That pride flag symbolizes a place of safety."
While on a walk with her wife and two children, Fullerton resident Kathy Plate said she considered not showing up to the council meeting, but changed her mind in hopes of setting an example for her children.
"I'm proud to see that flag out there. I would be much prouder if it was on the flagpole. And I would be even prouder if the city took some more steps," Plate said.
Miguel Alvarez, a Fullerton resident of over 20 years, spoke during the meeting to address the LGBTQ flag and what it symbolizes for him.
"The flag to me, this month, what it means to me is that this city is welcoming members of the LGBTQ community," Alvarez said. "That flag is a symbol that my life matters when I'm walking downtown when I'm with my partner. That flag should be with the other flags on the flagpole."
During council comments, council members Fred Jung, Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Silva expressed support to move the pride flag where it was initially placed two years ago. Zahra recalled his experience and honor of raising the pride flag in Fullerton for the first time in 2019.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who voted against displaying the pride flag in 2019 due to concerns that other groups would also demand the city display their flags, said the new location of the pride flag currently occupies a very preferential area.
"I did appreciate and thank those who donated the flags. I posted the flag in a prominent position. If this council wants to override me on it, it certainly is your prerogative," Whitaker said.
Councilman Zahra said he did not recall a council discussion regarding the relocation of the flag. He said the issue was debated two years ago, including the flag's placement, and settled. Compared to other cities in Orange County, the city of Fullerton took into account adding an additional flagpole in front of city hall, but the cost was too high.
"But clearly, if you watch the council meeting from last time, this particular issue was discussed as far as the placement is concerned," Zahra said. "However, Mr. Mayor, you took unilateral, without a discussion with our counsel, without consulting with us, and you made this determination yourself."
Whitaker agreed to relocate the pride flag to its original location on the main flagpole. To avoid further delay, councilman Silva requested the city manager move the flag immediately without going through a special meeting to receive the order.