Independence Mayor Eileen Weir says she has displayed the rainbow pride flag outside her office window at City Hall not to be confrontational but as a show of inclusion and acceptance.
“I feel very strongly that when we adopted a mission that is 'Independence For All,' that means something,” she said Tuesday.
Mark Velder, a part-time city employee speaking at Monday's City Council meeting, said the flag gives him “a sense of discrimiation, that somebody's not for equal rights” and brought along two Confederate flags to further his point.
“If I put up my rebel flag tomorrow, I'll be fired,” he claimed. “The real rebel isn't me; it's whoever keeps putting up that flag.”
Weir said Velder is “making a presumption that wouldn't be accurate” and has distributed material around the city that's important to him without reprimand.
The pride flag had flown briefly in front of City Hall last June, to which Velder also objected. The next month, a council majority passed a resolution that the flags at City Hall and other municipal facilities be limited to the U.S., state and city flags and the National League of Families POW/MIA Flag, unless otherwise approved by a council majority.
“That's fine; I didn't vote in favor of that,” Weir said.
“That's my office space, and I'm entitled to put what I want in my office space,” she added. “It's only accessible from my office.”
Come July, she said, she'll put up the U.S. flag. In the fall, a Chiefs flag likely will appear.
Velder went on to claim that the pride flag was for “people who surgically removed part of their anatomy because they don't know what kind of bathroom to go to.”
“That is not me; I am normal, so I don't want that flag to represent me.”
His comments received a smattering of applause from a crowd that mostly attended Monday's meeting to see how the council would vote with regard to city retiree health care.
Weir said Velder is entitled to his views but acknowledged his comments made her a bit uncomfortable “not as the mayor of the city, but as a human being.”
“I don't share those views, as somebody who's grown up in a family of great faith and beliefs,” she said, adding that she’s received much positive feedback regarding the pride flag. “Clearly, we don't have the same viewpoint. But this isn't about me versus Mark Velder.”
“I regret that it may offend some people, but I didn't do it to get a reaction. I want everybody in our community to understand that they are valued.”