Raising the rainbow pride flag in July is about acceptance, says Mayor Henry Braun, following some opposition to council’s decision last week.
A message to council from Les Bohna requested the city fly the rainbow flag from July 13 to 20 to coincide with a pride celebration that will run July 17 to 19 at Trethewey House. The events are organized by Out in the Valley, a society that organizes social events for the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community, and the Fraser Valley Youth Society, a non-profit charitable organization that provides services for LGBTQ+ and allied youth.
Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve the flag-raising. Coun. Brenda Falk was absent from the meeting.
Abbotsford resident Richard Peachey, under the title of Citizens for a Morally Strong Abbotsford, expressed his opposition in a letter, asking for residents who also opposed the flag-raising to contact mayor and council.
Abbotsford has no policy on what flags are flown at city hall, said Braun, and in the past other flags have been raised.
“In the absence of a policy, I personally thought it would be seen as very discriminatory (to not raise the flag) because we’ve flown other flags.”
On Monday, council also asked staff to draft a policy for the future. The original request to council also asked for a crosswalk to be painted in rainbow colours, which was not approved, but was sent to staff for consideration.
Braun said he knew the decision would be controversial for some sectors of the community, but said “we need to reach out to a community that feels very discriminated against.”
Braun said he generally doesn’t vote on issues at council unless there is a tie. However, when the mayor abstains from raising a hand, it is counted as voting in the affirmative – therefore he voted in favour of the flag-raising. He said had he been a councillor, he likely would have still voted in support.
“I know some people are not going to be happy with this, but I don’t view this as endorsing anything … this is about accepting people…”
Peachey asked in his letter whether city council should be “offering official support to views or practices that many in our community regard as sexual immorality.”
Braun said he doesn’t agree the flag-raising supports sexual immorality. He said council reached out a hand to part of the community and said, “You are a part of us.”
He said before this issue came up, he was scheduled to speak at the pride celebration and is committed to doing so.
“I want to be inclusive of all people in this community.”
Peachey has now requested to make a delegation to council about the issue. Braun said that after that presentation, he will “address this head-on as the mayor” and will open the discussion to council.