Heber City Council heard comments from around a half a dozen residents regarding rainbow colored banners flying on Main Street that read ‘Pride in the Wasatch Back’.
At the opening of the Tuesday evening Heber City Council meeting, Heber City resident Patricia Thompson expressed her opposition to the banners flying on Main Street.
“I’m trying to remain civil tonight," Thompson said. "I have a big problem with the rainbow flags lined up and down Main Street. I have no problem with people’s sexual orientation, I have a real problem with it being flashed in front of my face. I think they would have a real problem if I started flashing my sexual orientation on the poles on Main Street.”
In all five people spoke against the rainbow banners in some form. Heber Mayor Kelleen Potter explained that the policy has been if someone requests flags to be hung on Main Street the request to schedule would go through the public works department. If there were further questions the approval would come to the city manager and the mayor. Mayor Potter explained they viewed the request from a private citizen as a commemoration of a month-long event, June marks the 50th anniversary of gay rights protests known as the Stonewall Riots, also known as the Stonewall uprising, in New York City.
The private citizen behind the request was in attendance at the meeting and made herself known. Heber resident Allison Phillips Belnap explained she initially was hoping to go door to door and offer to plant rainbow flags in residents’ lawns for a fee of $10 or $15. When she realized it was too late for a project, she went ahead with the request to post the banners on Main Street.
“I have children who are members of LGBTQ community," Belnap explained. "I spent the first 40 years of my life feeling that I was not acceptable and that I was somehow broken. I knew that it was better for me if I could die, rather than put my family through the difficulty of coming out in our community. Ideally there would have been a pride parade, there would have been a private activity, something tied to these banners. I felt the time had come for us in Utah communities to say this is not a political issue. This is an issue about loving those around us. Do we love our neighbors, do we not? Are we willing to say yes we accept you, yes come and be part of our community, are we not? This is not about sexuality. This is not about what happens in people's bedrooms. That's my belief. Whether the flags hang or whether they come down and I imagine you'll probably get a new policy which is probably good for you actually. I think the value in all of this is that we have the discussion.”
A Gofund me to pay for the banners has raised over $1,500 as of Tuesday night. Belnap reports the 50 banners cost $110 each. The Gofund me states that funds raised in excess of the $5,500 will be donated to LGBT focused nonprofits.
Wasatch County Council Chair Danny Goode also gave comment, though he clarified that he was representing himself and not the county in any way. Goode suggested to the city council that they consider a policy about what banners may be on Main Street.
“I don't believe that rainbow flags do any harm to children, to families or to God," Goode continued. "Also when I saw the flags the first thing I thought was we're advertising that we're having a gay pride parade in Heber City. I thought, well that's going to be interesting. When I realized that wasn't the case then my first thought was I would like the city to consider a policy about what type of banners we put on Main Street. Not because I have any problems with rainbow flags, or gay pride flags in themselves. It’s that I am worried about people politicizing our Main Street banners. I’d hate to see someone wanting to put the Confederate flag or a Nazi flag or any other politically motivated flag. So, I'd like the city to maybe reconsider their policy there. If for example, we have a gay pride parade I wouldn’t have a problem with flags advertising those local events and seasonal events. When we sponsor things as a public entity, we need to be careful not to enter into a political realm. We represent everyone as elected official and we have a very good community, we have very good people. I hate to see us devolve into some bickering over something that people don't have a choice about. You’re born the way that you’re born. You are who you are, and I think everyone should be more accepting.”
After public comment Mayor Potter offered her thoughts on the issue.
“I hope we can continue as a community to talk about hard things like this," Potter said. "I don't want to make it about me, but I had a son come out in this community and he was treated really poorly. People threw things at him out of their car and texted him ‘Watch out Homo.’ So, I've been dealing with this for a long time. I’ve had people come to me and tell me the stories that you don't want to hear about people the way they’ve been treated. I've been to funerals. So, I just know this is a good community. I know that people, our core values are the same. That we love, that we care. Hopefully we can work through some of these little details and try to make it so that people who are different feel welcome in ways that everyone feels comfortable with. Sometimes it's hard for them to know that people out there do care about them because they only hear negative things.”
The banners will remain on Main Street as scheduled.