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In March, Dublin Councilmember Shawn Kumagai participated in an interfaith vigil in Pleasanton to grieve after shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. (File Photo - Doug Jorgensen)

In a meeting remarkable for the heartfelt personal sharing by gay people, residents and public officials who have gay relatives, the Dublin City Council unanimously proclaimed Gay Pride Month in June.

However, Councilmember Shawn Kumagai’s request for the city to fly the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag from the city’s flagpole in front of City Hall failed on a 3-2 vote at the council’s May 21 meeting. The city flag flagpole is adjacent to flagpoles that display the U.S. and California flags.

Flying the Rainbow Flag, either through the month of June, or only on June 1 to kick off Gay Pride Month, would have sent a stronger signal to the community about the importance of the month, said Kumagai.

Kumagai proposed flying the Rainbow Flag several months ago at a council meeting. Staff reported back that in the East Bay, six cities have flown the flag and 17 have not.

Kumagai made a motion to fly the flag. It was seconded by Councilmember Jean Josey, who also voted for it. Voting “nay” were Mayor David Haubert, Vice-mayor Melissa Hernandez, and Councilmember Arun Goel. All three said that they thought there should be a council-set policy first about whether private or non-profit groups should be allowed to fly a flag on the city pole, and if so, what standards the decision should meet.

Near the end of the meeting, all councilmembers agreed that they should discuss it as a future item, after staff researches other cities’ policies, if any exist.

‘SUPER PERSONAL’ ISSUE FOR JOSEY

Josey said that the issue is “super personal.” Her brother was gay. He died of AIDS. “I know in my heart that if I had not been sitting here, I would have been speaking there (from the audience rostrum) in favor of hanging this flag,” she said.

Josey works for the Dublin Unified School District as a training coordinator. She said, “I see the struggles of LGBT youth for acceptance, feelings of worth, and physical safety. There are fights for no reason, other than who these people are. It’s not a choice, it’s not a membership. It’s important to send a message to our youth that they are worthy just for who they are.”

Haubert said that his own style of leadership as mayor is to “favor bridges, not walls. Flying the Rainbow Flag would be a wall, because it would be divisive in the community. Haubert said he prefers talking about the broad range of diversity in the community, and what unites the community.

Kumagai said, “There is a certain narrative around diversity that attempts to homogenize or whitewash our differences. I will speak for myself. I do not want to be normalized as a straight person. I just want to live my own life, and have the same rights as others to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“This is not the end. I hope to have the City Council’s support on how to make this truly inclusive, that we embrace without qualification, all members of our unique humanity,” said Kumagai.

EMOTIONAL PAIN BRINGS TEARS

During the public hearing on the issue, an audience member introduced herself as a San Ramon resident, but with friends in Dublin. As a 69-year-old lesbian, she said it was important for her to be there.

She openly cried for a minute or so before she could start speaking. “I can’t tell you how painful this is; how much this has upset me. The Rainbow Flag stands for love and freedom to choose who you love. That’s how it is — celebrate love. People are dying every day for the right to love each other,” she said.

“The idea of being able to come to Dublin, to see a Rainbow Flag would mean I am welcome and safe. Others could have their own flags. Why not? I am a lovable person, and so are you,” said the woman.

Steve Wright, a 30-year Dublin resident, talked about his gay relatives, including a brother who lived five decades, and could not live as he really was because of anti-gay attitudes. “People are born gay; it’s not a choice,” declared Wright.

One speaker, a firearms dealer for more than 40 years, said he is a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The dealer said that he feels that he has been discriminated against — by “gun-haters” and Democrats, so why not also put up an NRA banner on the city flagpole, provided privately so there is no expense to the city. “I support what Shawn is trying to do, but not on the flagpole,” he said.