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City of Downey Bans LGBTQ+ Pride Flag

May 16, 2024

Fireworks erupted during the city of Downey’s regular meeting Tuesday night, with the council voting 3-2 to ban the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, hiding it behind a “neutral flag policy” that will ban such displays; the item was brought forward for a vote by Mayor Pro Tem Hector Sosa.

It was a mean-spirited vote given the fact that the LGBTQ+ Pride flag will be flown over county facilities in Downey in June.

MPT Sosa and City Councilmembers Dorothy Pemberton and Claudia Frometa voted yes with Mayor Mario Trujillo and Councilmember Horacio Ortiz voted against.

Trujillo said the item was brought forward by residents working for the anti-LGBTQ+ group MassResistance. “This as an attack on the LGBTQ+ community,” Trujillo stated.

In 2023, Los Cerritos Community News reported on MassResistance, which has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its lies and propaganda. 

One of the most active chapters was in California, run by right-wing activist Arthur Schaper, who is based in Torrance.

In 2023, LCCN first reported Schaper and his associates delivered a political hit piece flyer with several deceiving statements aimed at certain board members of the NLMUSD while directing so-called parents to attend tonight’s meeting and protest.

Schaper was targeting John Glenn High’s Wellbeing Center and calling for its removal.

The Wellbeing Center, of which there are 50 in the L.A. County High Schools, offers trained public health educators who provide students with information and consultation services to support students with substance use prevention, mental health support, and sexual health information and services.

Schaper wrote in the flyer that the NLMUSD Board approved the Center “without parent approval,” which was a complete lie; there were several other lies on the flyer. 

But LCCN brought attention to Schaper’s actions, and he left town and threatening “to sue the paper,” without cause.

Similar to Downey, Schaper brought with him other protesters who only gave their names (and not where they were from) who spoke during public comment.

But Schaper was ignored by the local paper in Downey, so his homophobic actions were allowed to continue.

The Downey City Council’s actions may escalate tensions, especially since Trujillo and Ortiz are LGBTQ+ officials. Trujillo commented, “The flag holds particular significance for LGBTQ+ youth.”

The Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials (LACLEO) association, in response to the vote to ban the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, expressed its “profound disappointment,” in the decision.

Said LACLEO President and Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang, “This is a flag that symbolizes hope, freedom and unity. As an association representing over 50 LGBTQ+ elected officials, we are deeply disappointed but also incredibly surprised. Downey hosted the first pride celebration of any city in southeast Los Angeles County, flying the Pride flag proudly.”

“This is the sort of thing you read about happening in rural red homophobic counties, I was shocked to see Downey’s actions, particularly since the city has two LGBTQ+ Councilmembers. What were the other three thinking, trying to mask a homophobic act behind a measure that calls for nuetral and generic flags.”

Prang continued, “It just doesn’t make any sense for the leaders of a community that has been supportive of their LGBTQ+ constituents in the past to now adopt what appears to be a mean-spirited measure. At a time when we need to come together as a society more than ever, this can only serve to create division and discord where there was none.”

 “We must work to discover solutions that expand inclusivity and that acknowledge the diversity that enriches the places we all call home”, said LACLEO Vice President Ed Reece, who also serves as LA County LGBTQ+ Commissioner and Claremont City Councilmember. 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn issued a statement saying she “was disappointed in the Downey City Council’s decision, and I worry about the message it sends to LGBTQ+ residents in Downey.”

She said the flag would not disappear from Downey, and could be seen on county property, including at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the county’s library headquarters and Los Amigos Golf Course.

“Thankfully, the Pride Flag will still fly over Downey this June,” she said. “My colleagues and I put in place a new policy last year to fly the Pride flag at all county facilities every June — including our eight county facilities in Downey.”

Last year, Hahn and the board also voted to fly the Pride flag at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration building in downtown Los Angeles.

Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA) released the following statement after the Downey City Council voted to ban the Pride flag from being flown at city hall:

“I’m extremely disappointed by the Downey City Council’s petty decision to ban the Pride flag. It’s particularly concerning to me that the city council would take this hateful step backwards just weeks before the start of Pride month.

“With all the issues facing local government: homelessness, public safety and a lack of affordable housing, the fact they would waste valuable time on banning the Pride flag is not only disappointing, but foolish.

“The Pride flag represents inclusion, diversity and equality. These are the values we should be uplifting as government leaders. Banning the flag from city hall sends the hateful message that these are no longer the values of our community. I strongly disagree.

“As a vice chair of the Equality Caucus, I will continue to fly the Pride flag outside my congressional office. It’s important to me that all LGBTQI+ residents of Downey – and throughout my district – know they are seen, valued and loved.”