Arlington Heights library board votes 4-2 to hoist Pride flag next month

A day after the Arlington Heights village board reaffirmed its decision not to fly the Pride flag outside village hall, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library board Tuesday night narrowly voted to approve a policy that would allow the rainbow-colored flag to be hoisted outside the facility.

The policy, adopted on a 4-2 vote, would permit the flying of the flags of the United States, Illinois, the village, and any flag chosen by the library board "as an expression of the library's mission, values or official sentiments." The library's flagpole on Dunton Avenue isn't intended to serve as a forum for speech by the public; rather the selected flags serve as a government forum for expression of the library's mission, values or official sentiments, according to the policy.

That language is modeled off a flag policy being considered Thursday by Glenview's library board, and goes further than a policy drafted by the Arlington Heights library's attorney.

Trustee John Supplitt was the surprise "yes" vote Tuesday, following a lengthy prepared statement in which he said he didn't think a written policy could be nuanced so as to avoid the flagpole becoming a public forum for any group or flag.

"It's your flag today. It's someone else's tomorrow," Supplitt said earlier in the meeting. "If this board moves forward with this policy and resolution, we open the door by setting a precedent for future boards to do precisely the same thing in a manner that aligns with their mission, vision and values."

But later in the meeting, after Trustee Debbie Smart read the Glenview library's proposed policy, Supplitt asked if Smart would amend her original proposal and substitute it with the wording of the Glenview policy. Supplitt said it would be a "roll of the dice" whether it meets the legal standard, but he trusted Glenview for doing their homework.

Smart, who in 2011 became the first openly LGBTQ person elected to public office in Arlington Heights, said her proposal to display the rainbow flag for Pride Month in June garnered more emails in support than any other action taken by the board.

"It's time for us to be leaders again in this community and not be fearful of what if, but be grateful for what is," Smart said.

Smart and Supplitt were joined by Amy Somary and Sarah Galla in voting to approve the flag policy. Without Supplitt's vote, the seven-member elected panel might ordinarily have had a majority - with Andi Ruhl expressing support for flying the Pride flag at previous board meetings - but Ruhl was unable to attend Tuesday's session.

Board President Greg Zyck, concerned about legal ramifications, sought to delay a vote until the board's next meeting on June 6 so Smart's amended policy could be further reviewed. He voted "no" along with Board Vice President Carole Medal, who said she was disappointed the board was going to have a policy that its attorney hasn't had a chance to review.

"In our quest to be kind and welcoming and inclusive, we have to realize that in turn we are being exclusive. ... We are addressing one segment of our population, but what about the other populations?" said Medal, who is also executive director of the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. "There is much to learn about our populations that reside in Arlington Heights, and flags don't do it, but knowledge will, and that is the role of the library and what our library must provide to our community."

The library board's decision comes after village board members decided Monday not to revisit their 2021 flag display ordinance that effectively banned the Pride flag from flying outside village hall. An informal poll of that elected panel yielded support from only four of nine board members in favor of reopening debate.

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