Sequim OKs new flag display policy

SEQUIM — A new chapter in the Sequim Municipal Code formalizes what flags will be displayed in and outside the Sequim Civic Center.

The Sequim City Council voted 6-1 for the ordinance at its July 25 meeting with no further discussion other than to adopt the new code, 1.20 City Flag Policy. It states the city will permanently fly/display the United States flag, the Washington State flag and the City of Sequim flag outside the civic center.

The POW/MIA flag will be displayed six times a year outside, too. City code allows for any other flag mandated by federal or Washington state law to be displayed as well.

Flags will be displayed at half-staff at the direction of the president, governor and/or at the request of the city council or city manager in the event of the death of a current city employee or official, the code states.

Discussions for a flag policy started in June after a request was made to fly the Pride flag in the Civic Center Plaza to celebrate Pride Month as part of a proposed proclamation by Rebecca Horst of Sequim.

Mayor Tom Ferrell read a modified proclamation, and a discussion on displaying flags was brought back to the July 11 council meeting when council members agreed to direct Sequim’s attorney to draft a policy so that only the current “official” flags can fly on the Civic Center plaza. Pride flags are not mentioned in the new policy.

Lowe said in an interview she voted against the policy “to help be the voice of our many citizens who support the city flying the Pride flag during June Pride month.”

“I felt a unanimous vote didn’t properly represent those who wanted the city to show support of our LGBTQI2S community members,” she said.

Lowe added that the “2S” means “two spirits, an indigenous expression for LGBTQ.”

At the July 11 meeting, Ferrell said he wanted to stick with the federal, state, city and POW/MIA flags because he didn’t “know how to proceed without getting into flag wars.”

He and city staff wrote in a report 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.”

Lowe said in an interview there is confusion between civil and human rights efforts and an organization representing an ideology, and that Washington’s law (RCW 49.60.030) states the protected classes.

“These classifications are distinctly different from an organization formed around ideology,” she said.

“Ideology is formed over time and can be changed. Civil and human rights protect what cannot be changed.

“By supporting Pride month and flying the Pride flag, we aren’t holding LGBTQI2S community members above others, we are raising them up, because they experience discrimination and bullying. Raising the Pride flag shows we accept and support who they are.”

The new code says, “Raising flags is an expression of government sentiment, constitutes government speech, and does not open up any city facility or property as a forum for public or limited public participation.”

City council members and staff considered drafting a policy that included options for a city to fly a Pride flag, such as in Bellingham, with some council members saying they preferred Bellingham’s code.

Council member William Armacost said on July 11 there was a challenge drawing the line for which flags to fly as there are many deserving groups, countries and efforts, and that there are many LGBTQ flags from which to choose.

With a new policy, he asked who would schedule the flags, purchase them and care for them.

On July 11, council member Rachel Anderson said she’s heard arguments for flying the Pride flag represents “our community as welcoming to people of that group, but in my opinion, people in the community should be welcoming.”

“I don’t think a flag changes that,” she said. “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.”

For more about the City of Sequim, visit sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.

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