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Divided Grosse Pointe Park City Council rejects proposal to fly Pride flag

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 23, 2020


GROSSE POINTE PARK — While Grosse Pointe Park officials were united when it came to a human rights ordinance and LGBTQ Pride Month resolution, they were split when it came to the question of whether or not to fly the rainbow-striped LGBTQ Pride flag at City Hall.

After debating the matter, the council voted 5-2 in favor of only flying the United States, state and city flags on municipal property during a June 8 meeting via Zoom. Mayor Robert Denner and City Council members Daniel Grano, Michele Hodges, Lauri Read and James Robson voted in favor of limiting flags to the three governmental ones, while City Council members Aimee Rogers Fluitt and Vikas Relan voted against it.

City Attorney Thomas Howlett said this decision was entirely up to the council.

“The bottom line is, the city does have its own First Amendment right to exercise free speech,” Howlett said. “It’s not a public forum where anyone can come and post whatever they want.”

Rogers Fluitt said she spoke to many Park residents about this issue, and while some were opposed to flying the LGBTQ Pride Flag, the majority supported it. She said there was a petition drive in the city in support of flying it.

“This is something I think would serve to show not only residents, but visitors, this is where we stand,” Rogers Fluitt said. “This is a much more public display (than the proclamation or human rights ordinance) that shows we are a welcoming, open community. ... I think we need to just be brave and do it.”

Rogers Fluitt felt the Park could follow the model set by Oak Park, which has a policy of only flying flags associated with federally recognized proclamations on municipal property.

Some officials admitted they were torn by this issue.

“My heart says fly it (but) ... I am worried about unintended consequences,” Read said. “I think we might be opening up a Pandora’s box.”

Officials including Robson feared that they would be establishing a precedent by allowing the LGBTQ Pride flag to be flown at City Hall.

“It does begin a slippery slope,” Robson said. “Where does it all end? Once you put up a flag of any political stripe, you do a disservice to the whole community.”

Denner also worried about flying a flag that some see as having political undertones.

“I do have concerns about flying flags that are associated by many people with a cause,” he said.

Hodges said she didn’t want members of the city’s LGBTQ community to feel as though this was a vote against them.

Grano said he welcomes members of the LGBTQ community in the city and they “add a lot to our community,” but he feared permitting the Pride flag could be “opening our city up to litigation.” He had other reservations about it, as well.

“I believe, as council members, we represent the entire city — people who are for the (LGBTQ Pride) flag and people who are against the flag,” Grano said.