By: Al Ballesteros
Photo by: Alexander Kharchenko | Dreamstime.com

DOWNEY, Calif. – At a time when the country is terribly divided in its politics, the city council of Downey just poured gasoline on the fire. By a 3-2 vote at its May 14 meeting, the city banned the Gay Pride flag from flying on city owned and operated property.

What’s even more unsettling is members of the council are said to have been lobbied and influenced by the California chapter of the extremist group MassResistance, a Boston based anti-LGBTQ group.

In fact during the discussion, Mayor Mario Trujillo noted that the proposed agenda item had been lobbied for by a select few residents at the behest of MassResistance.

“It’s hard to believe they did this. I’ve lived in this city all my life, I’m gay and I no longer feel safe here,” says Jacob R., who seeks to remain anonymous. “It’s like this city is turning its back on me, on us and that really feels bad. I contribute to this community like a lot of us do, and it feels like Downey is saying it does not want to see me or acknowledge I matter.”

The council’ vote was to implement a ‘neutral’ flag policy essentially banning the Gay flag from flying that was brought forward by Mayor Pro Tem Hector Sosa and supported by Councilmembers Dorothy Pemberton and Claudia Frometa. Mayor Mario Trujillo and Councilmember Horacio Ortiz, who are openly LGBTQ voted against it.

Mayor Trujillo says “The flag has particular poignance for LGBTQ+ youth – it sends a message that this is a safe space and that you are welcome. Suicide is at epidemic levels and we should be doing all we can to be welcoming.”

Janice Hahn, Los Angeles County Supervisor who represents the fourth district of the county which includes Downey responded by confirming that her office together with the LA County Department of Education will hold a Pride Flag raising ceremony on Monday, June 3 at 10:00 am. “A Rally for Equality” in Downey will be held at the Los Angeles County Department of Education, at 9300 Imperial Highway in Downey.

LGBTQ leaders acknowledge Supervisor Hahn as a true champion of the LGBTQ community and urge those who support equality to turn out in Downey on June 3rd. Organizers say it’s crucial that the community come together in large numbers at the June 3rd event because LGBTQ people are under attack.

“The Downey City Council’s action is a reminder that so much still needs to be done to ensure an understanding of the lives of LGBTQ people that encounter discrimination, hate, phobias, rejection and marginalization. The pride flag is a symbol of an existence of hope and empowerment for a community in need of support, acceptance and love,” said Robert Contreras, President and CEO of Bienestar Human Services.

LACLEO President and Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang said “This is a flag that symbolizes hope, freedom and unity. As an association representing over 50 LGBTQ+ elected officials, we are deeply disappointed but also incredibly surprised. Downey hosted the first pride celebration of any city in southeast Los Angeles County, flying the Pride flag proudly.”

Prang continued, “It just doesn’t make any sense for the leaders of a community that has been supportive of their LGBTQ+ constituents in the past to now adopt what appears to be a mean-spirited measure. At a time when we need to come together as a society more than ever, this can only serve to create division and discord where there was none.”

“We must work to discover solutions that expand inclusivity and that acknowledge the diversity that enriches the places we all call home”, said LACLEO Vice President Ed Reece, who also serves as LA County LGBTQ+ Commissioner and Claremont City Councilmember.

The Latino Equality Alliance or LEA made the following statement, “The Latino Equality Alliance (“LEA”) stands in solidarity with Downey Mayor Mario Trujillo, Council Member Horacio Ortiz, and the LGBTQ families who live in Downey, CA. On behalf of its constituents, Latino Equality Alliance condemns the decision by City of Downey Council Members who voted against flying the diversity rainbow Pride flag in June during which the LGBTQ community commemorates its struggle for equality and equity.

Eddie Martinez, is Executive Director of LEA, a community based organization with offices in Boyle Heights and Bell. “The pride flag symbolizes hope and liberation for the LGBTQ community. Ceremoniously raising the pride flag is a symbolic act of kindness and compassion and by doing so in a community of color it also symbolizes the diversity of the LGBTQ community.”

“Elected leaders from Downey, a middle class community in Southeast Los Angeles County rich in diversity and home to a majority Latinx community, should be leading the charge for equality, not perpetuating discrimination under pressure from out-of-state proponents.”

The LEA statement continued saying, “Sadly, banning the Pride flag at City Hall can be interpreted as an act of promoting homophobia, bigotry, and oppression. This decision by the Downey city council is hurtful and a shameful step backward for Downey which does not reflect our community’s values of inclusion and equality.”

“The Latino Equality Alliance remains resolute in its commitment to empowering LGBTQ youth and their families and continues to advocate for a safe and welcoming environment that respects the dignity of all families. We will not allow fear and prejudice to dictate the values of our community. ¡Juntos, Somos LEA! “

The Downey Patriot Newspaper reported on April 11, 2024 Mayor Pro Tempore Sosa asked city staff to “agendize a conversation” on the subject of a neutral flag policy, and what litigation the city could potentially expose itself to in the absence of adopting one. A neutral flag policy would ban the flying of nongovernmental flags on city buildings. Currently the city of flies four flags – the American, California, city and MIA-POW flags – year-round.nnExpress Your Support of LGBTQ+ People in Downey and Everywhere else:
Show up and be seen and heard on June 3, 2024
@ 10 a.m. for “A Rally for Equality in Downey”. The event will be held at 9300 Imperial Highway in Do