THE PRIDE FLAG went up over Stockton City Hall on Wednesday, the day after a divided City Council voted in favor of a week-long civic display to recognize the LGBTQ community.
The motion passed 4-3 with Mayor Kevin Lincoln and Councilmembers Michele Padilla and Michael Blower voting against honoring the flag during Pride Month.
The Pride flag is a rainbow-colored banner that symbolizes the LGBTQ community and is flown during June to commemorate Pride Month. This marks the fifth year the city has officially displayed the flag, but some supporters have noted in previous years the decision was less contentious.
As people entered the building for Tuesday’s council meeting, one woman — Nancy Gonzalez St. Clair, the city’s poet laureate — wore a dress with the colors of the rainbow and 15-year-old Amelia Patnaud held her Pride flag in her arms.
The council’s approval came one week after a previous attempt to pass the flag resolution ended in a tie due to one councilmember being absent from the meeting.
Earlier this month, an identical request made to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to fly the Pride flag outside the county building in Stockton was rejected.
“It’s a huge win,” exclaimed Camille Zapata after the council’s vote Tuesday night. Zapata is the former chief of staff for Supervisor Kathy Miller.
Inside the small lobby of City Hall on the second-floor, people embraced each other with hugs and high-fives and took photos grinning after the vote was announced.
During public comment, Zapata called out Lincoln for previously voting in favor of the flag being flown and pointed out his changed decision.
“Frankly it’s disappointing … 2024 is around the coroner and I think that a lot of candidates are politically aligning themselves with their party,” Zapata said, referring to Republicans.
She was one of the more than 30 people who spoke at the meeting to plead with the council to allow the flag to be raised for the fifth year in the city.
A slippery slope?
While an overwhelming number of people at the meeting wanted the flag to be raised, there were some who voiced their concerns about the flag.
One speaker at the podium asked the council which flag they would stop at, because he believed if the Pride flag was allowed to be raised, other communities and cultures would make the same request.
After public comment finished, the councilmembers gave their remarks.
Padilla asked the audience where the love and inclusion was for her after she allegedly received a lot of hate last week for not wanting to vote in favor of the resolution.
“I don’t think we are ready to fly any other flag,” Padilla said.
However, vice mayor Kimberly Warmsley, who had brought the item to the City Council, said that enhancing and embracing culture on all levels was a must for the city.
“In this city we embrace diversity … Yes, let’s raise that flag,” she said.
“We wanted to show that we’re here, we’re queer and wanted to send a message that raising the Pride flag is something our community needs and wants.”David Sengthay, Stockton resident
Council Member Dan Wright agreed and said that the same pride he has taken in raising armed forces flags is the same pride he has when it comes to flying the Pride flag.
A symbol of love from the city
Prior to the meeting, the San Joaquin Pride Center held a rally on the steps of City Hall with the help of local community organizer David Sengthay, a Stanford University student and Stockton resident.
“We wanted to show that we’re here, we’re queer and wanted to send a message that raising the Pride flag is something our community needs and wants,” Sengthay said.
The pride center said the rally was a chance to give community members who might not be comfortable addressing the council a voice.
Sengthay said having the flag raised on a city flagpole showed a symbol of acceptance and love from the city.
Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.