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Politics

Oceanside's flag policy fails to move foward

The Oceanside Civic Center is pictured on Dec. 6, 2023.
Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
The Oceanside Civic Center is pictured on Dec. 6, 2023.
Updated: December 7, 2023 at 11:12 AM PST
The proposal failed along with two motions to create a separate flagpole for commemorative flags, said Michael Gossman, assistant city manager for the city of Oceanside. During the meeting, over 20 members of the public provided comments both in support and opposition to the proposed ordinance.

The Oceanside City Council on Wednesday evening will consider a proposal to create a policy on displaying flags on city property.

According to the city council agenda, councilmembers Rick Robinson and Peter Weiss are asking city staff to develop a policy that “shall provide for the honorable display of the Flag of the United States, the State of California, and the City of Oceanside."

Their proposal also calls for allowing the POW/MIA Flag, and flags dedicated for the purpose of mourning the loss of first responders.

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The council members said they put the issue on the agenda after receiving an email request to fly a “Sanctity of Human Life” flag at the Oceanside Civic Center in January.

Image of the "Sanctity of Life" flag sent to Oceanside City Council members in a request for the flag to be displayed.
Via Oceanside City Council Member Peter Weiss
Image of the "Sanctity of Life" flag sent to Oceanside City Council members in a request for the flag to be displayed.

“If we say ‘no’ to one, then now we're making decisions. Now we're picking winners and losers. Whose flags do we fly and whose don't we fly? And I strongly believe that the three flags that we currently fly are uniting all of us that live here in the city of Oceanside,” Robinson said, referring to the U.S., California and city of Oceanside flags.

Lisa Nava, director of operations at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, said flag policies are an attempt to silence LGBTQ+ voices.

“This is a systematic way the people who want to be anti-LGBT or anti-transgender are forcing the conversation within councils and school boards,” Nava said, referring to requests like the one received in Oceanside.

The Pride Progress Flag flies outside the North County LGBTQ Resource Center in Oceanside, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023.
Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
The Pride Progress Flag flies outside the North County LGBTQ+ Resource Center in Oceanside, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023.

She said the center had planned to ask for permission to fly the Pride Flag in June during its Pride By The Beach celebration.

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Robinson and the Oceanside City Manager's Office noted that the council does not currently have to agree to a request to fly any flag.

David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition, said proposals for flag policies like this are not cut and dry — and could lead to litigation.

“The threshold question is whether these flagpoles are being used to express the city's own message or has the city opened up the flagpole as a forum for private people to fly flags of their choice,” he said.

The request for the “Sanctity of Human Life” flag was sent to to the Oceanside city council in an email signed by “Mary Davis.” Councilmember Weiss shared that email with KPBS, and we tried to contact its sender but have received no response so far.

Nava said if the proposal does pass, she hopes it will be revised and inclusionary of the rainbow flag and other cultural heritage flags.

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