Sequim council seeks formal flag policy for plaza

Sequim city councilors agreed July 11 to direct Sequim’s attorney to draft a policy so that only the current “official” flags can fly at the Sequim Civic Center plaza.

Since June, discussions began among city councilors and staff on whether or not to fly the Pride flag for Pride month and other flags.

Councilors voted 6-1 — with Vicki Lowe opposed to the motion — to begin drafting and formalizing a flag policy. City attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said via email that the staff understood “official” to mean the current presentation of the United States of America flag, City of Sequim flag, State of Washington flag and the POW/MIA flag.

Mayor Tom Ferrell said what the city does now, along with showing the POW/MIA flag 10 days a year, is all it should do.

“I think I want to stick to that,” Ferrell said. “I just don’t know how to proceed without getting into flag wars.”

A policy will be drafted by Nelson-Gross and staff before being presented to council for consideration at a to-be-determined meeting.

In a joint report from staff and Ferrell, they wrote that “the critical component behind the policy is that it must reflect what is considered speech “by the City” meaning that the City supports the message behind the flag.”

Specific flag codes from Bellingham and Covington were presented as examples and could be mirrored in Sequim’s code, Nelson-Gross wrote via email.

Councilors Kathy Downer, Rachel Anderson and Lowe said they favored Bellingham’s policy, with Lowe saying it was “inclusive and supporting community members.”

Anderson said she’s heard arguments that flying the LGBTQ flag represents “our community as welcoming to people of that group.”

Anderson added, “In my opinion, people in the community should be welcoming; I don’t think a flag changes that.

“The people in the community are the ones that should make others feel welcome no matter what group they’re from. I think any group can benefit more from talking to each other more.”

Councilor William Armacost said the challenge with a policy was where to draw the line for which flags to fly.

“It’s a really overreached can of worms,” he said.

He added that if they were to add flags, his preference would be first for fallen law enforcement, firefighters and military.

Armacost said with many LGBTQ flag styles, he’s uncertain how they’d choose which one to use. Describing population demographics, he said with 7.5 percent of the nation identifying as LGBTQ, there’s higher percentages for other groups and nationalities, such as 14 percent Irish in the U.S.

“Where do we draw the line for not putting up an Irish flag?” Armacost asked.

He also asked who makes the decision for scheduling the display order, purchasing the flags, and who cares for them.

“I think we need to stick to tradition,” Armacost said.

Lowe said there’s been some common misunderstanding of what advocates sought.

“There are people who live in the United States who have not been protected,” she said. “The goal of things like hanging a Pride flag in Pride month, and commemorating different holidays like Juneteenth is to help bring those people up.

“We’re showing our support for them because they haven’t traditionally received that kind of support.”

Lowe said she has LGBTQ family members that had to pretend for much of their life they’re not LGBTQ, which caused a lot of mental health issues.

“Of the 7.5 percent LGBTQ, 25 percent are youth,” she said, “and supporting LGBTQ youth is suicide prevention.”

Lowe added, “It’s not about people’s ideology. It’s about people who are LGBTQ, which is something you’re born with. They’re African American, Native American [for example] and not a group or organization.”

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