New Arlington Heights policy won't permit Pride flag at village hall
After a request to fly the Pride flag at Arlington Heights village hall, board members Tuesday narrowly approved new, written rules permitting four flags that can be flown, but the Pride flag isn't on the list.
The new flag display policy, approved on a 5-3 vote, limits the flying of flags on property owned, leased or controlled by village government to the official flags of the United States of America, state of Illinois, village and the National League of Families POW/MIA flag.
That vote came after an amendment to the ordinance offered by Trustee Nicolle Grasse failed by a 4-4 vote. It would have allowed the village board to vote to fly any other flags that have been recognized and flown by the federal and state governments, including the Pride flag.
Trustee Rich Baldino supported the amendment, but when it failed, voted the other way on the main ordinance.
"This has not been an easy decision for me," Baldino said. "I came in here being sympathetic to the ordinance and still am."
Supporting the new flag policy with Baldino was Mayor Tom Hayes and Trustees Jim Tinaglia, John Scaletta and Jim Bertucci. Those against it, while also supporting the amendment, were Grasse, Mary Beth Canty and Robin LaBedz. Trustee Tom Schwingbeck, who was first to propose the village board's Pride Month proclamation in May, was absent from the meeting Tuesday night.
Hayes acknowledged the new written flag policy -- that codifies unwritten village practice -- was precipitated by recent discussions in neighboring towns about whether to fly the flags in support of the LGBTQ community on municipal flagpoles. The ordinance, he said, is a way to handle all other requests to fly flags on the poles in front of village hall.
"Local government flagpoles should be limited to flying flags that all of its residents can support," Hayes argued, adding that a municipality shouldn't promote "political or social" content there.
Canty called the ordinance an "overreaction," because it was proposed two days after the village received a request to fly the rainbow flag, which Village Manager Randy Recklaus said was the first request he could recall from someone in the community to fly a flag.
Canty said her family, which is filled with veterans, proudly flies the American flag.
"However, they would also agree the flag of our country that we fly very proudly at one time in our history said I was three-fifths of a person, and my family was three-fifths of a person," said Canty, who is biracial. "Until recently, that flag also stated my brother could not marry the man he loved. Times change, and it is important we as a welcoming village -- one that talks about being welcome -- actually takes the time to show that we are welcoming."
Of the two dozen public speakers during the board meeting, two-thirds of them -- some carrying Pride flags or signs -- opposed the new ordinance, while the other one-third were in favor.
"This was not a referendum on the Pride flag," Hayes said at the end of the meeting, drawing jeers from the crowd. "This was a decision based on a bigger picture -- based on requests that will be coming down the road -- and we need to have a policy in place that's more than an unwritten policy."