Rainbow flag now welcome at Des Plaines city hall

Five years after Des Plaines officials sparked controversy by flying the rainbow flag outside the local library, the city council on Monday voted to amend local policy and allow it to be flown at city hall, but with restrictions.

The colorful flag, - a symbol of LGBTQ pride - joins a list of 11 other standards that can be displayed without the specific consent of the city council.

The others are: the official flags of the U.S., Illinois and Des Plaines; the National League of POW/MIA Families' flag; a firefighter memorial flag; a memorial flag for police officers; and the official flags of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.

The rainbow flag became a political lightning rod in Des Plaines in June 2016 when it was flown at the city-owned library building following a deadly mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Then-Mayor Matthew Bogusz gave library board President Greg Sarlo permission to raise the flag.

The following month, the council enacted rules giving it the power to decide which flags can be raised over any site owned or leased by the city.

The flags for the U.S., state and city and the POW/MIA banner were approved first; the fire, police and military flags were added a few weeks later.

Mayor Andrew Goczkowski, who took office two weeks ago, said the rainbow flag needed to be on the list.

"Our LGBT residents are important members of our community, and allowing the flag to fly in commemoration of pride month reinforces the city's commitment to equality for all who live here," he said before the meeting.

The timing is right, Goczkowski said, because June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Monday also was an international day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

"I have been very clear about how proud I am to live in an inclusive, welcoming community," he said. "The city will be taking steps to be even more open and engaged with our diverse population."

According to the resolution, the rainbow flag can be flown at city hall for seven days in June. The military service branch flags also have date-related restrictions.

Before the council's vote, several residents rose at city hall to oppose the proposal. One called the proposal "a slap in the face" to residents.

The proposal passed with a 5-2 vote. Aldermen Carla Brookman of the 5th Ward and Malcolm Chester of the 6th Ward dissented.

Chester said he supported the sentiment behind the proposal but expressed fear that more groups will want flags displayed in the city.

Brookman said the city shouldn't advocate for any special interest group. She also insisted the flags already on the approved list include people of all races, creeds and sexual orientations.

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