Lacey to raise pride flag in response to Orlando massacre

The rainbow-colored pride flag was to be raised in the Lacy city plaza Friday in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
The rainbow-colored pride flag was to be raised in the Lacy city plaza Friday in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. rboone@theolympian.com

The Lacey City Council on Thursday voted to raise the pride flag — the rainbow-colored symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — in response to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The flag was to be raised Friday at Lacey Civic Plaza on Sleater-Kinney Road, across from McDonald’s, and remain there through the weekend.

The council vote was not unanimous. Mayor Andy Ryder, Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt and Councilmen Michael Steadman, Jeff Gadman and Lenny Greenstein voted in favor of the motion.

Councilmen Virgil Clarkson and Jason Hearn voted against it.

Ryder, who introduced the motion Thursday night, acknowledged that the city does not have a flag policy beyond flying the Washington state, POW-MIA and U.S. flags.

“But what’s changed for me is the shooting that happened in Orlando,” he told the council. “It’s appropriate to recognize those who have suffered.”

He added that Olympia, Tumwater, Thurston County and the state have raised pride flags and Lacey should follow suit.

“I’m absolutely 100 percent in support,” Steadman said.

Gadman said to honor the victims is appropriate.

“I’m all for this,” he said. “We pride ourselves on our diverse community and we welcome diversity.”

But Clarkson said he could not support the motion, even though he has been deeply involved with the LGBT community through his involvement with PFLAG, which stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

He said city decisions should be made in a much less emotional environment.

“I have reservations about letting emotions set policy,” he said.

Hearn said he was “sorrowful about the unbelievable tragedy in Florida,” but added that the city should have a policy in place before it makes a decision about the flag. He raised concerns about how it could “open the door for other political statements down the road.”

“I’m not a hater,” he said, “but I would hope we would seek other ways to show compassion or remorse.”

Ryder disagreed.

“I don’t think it’s political at all,” he said. “I think this is the reality of the world we live in, and when something devastating happens, I don’t think it’s an overreaction to support the community that has been affected. This is very appropriate for the city of Lacey.”

As part of Thursday’s vote, the council will begin to develop a flag policy for the city through its general government committee.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403