Independence City Council turns down request to fly Pride flag at City Hall

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

Come June, Independence Mayor Eileen Weir says, she plans to fly the rainbow-colored pride flag outside her office window at City Hall for LGBTQ Pride Month, just as she has the past couple years.

Weir asked the City Council this week to support flying the flag in front of City Hall in June, but the council voted 6-1 against that.

Right now, the flags of the city, Missouri and the United States, along with the National League of Families POW/MIA flag, are the only four allowed at City Hall and other municipal facilities. Any additional flag requires council approval.

“There was nothing particularly important about the timing of it,” Weir said of her request. “These are things we do all the time, recognizing certain groups in our community.”

The council voted for the current policy in summer of 2018, after the pride flag flew in front of City Hall in June. Weir decided the next year to fly the flag outside her office on a different side of the building. Weir said that with three new council members, she felt compelled to ask again this year. While the city received some objections three years ago, the mayor said she’s also received plenty of positive feedback over the past few years for that effort.

“I can only speak for my experience, and from reaction on social media, yes you can argue there are more important things you can do, but people do appreciate it,” Weir said. “People do find it meaningful. I’ve heard it privately from many employees, and a lot of people in our community.”

“For me, what it represents is inclusion of everybody, respect for everybody. That’s what ‘Independence For All’ (the motto for the city’s adopted strategic plan) is about. I’ve been consistent with my perspective on this, and this is something I felt strongly about.”

Weir isn’t bitter about the council’s lack of support regarding the flag, as she said they don’t disagree about the sentiment, rather simply the method.

“They had some positive remarks; they just disagree with me that this is an appropriate way,” she said.

Council Member Brice Stewart said that outside of flying government flags, “it would be favoring one group over another.”

“I think we already have an inclusive and welcoming community,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. “I don’t know how much a flag would change that.”

Council Member Mike Steinmeyer said he didn’t want flying the flag to feel like a “hollow gesture,” and that the city could be more substantive in having discussions about supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Weir said the city has engaged with the diversity and inclusion task force, established a couple years ago, and has examined personnel policies and hiring practices for several years. Many cities have flown the pride flag, she said.

“I believe in my heart, and in communication with many in this community, that this is something that matters,” she said in response. “It may be a small gesture, but it has great meaning.”

“I didn’t think it was hollow; I just didn’t know the heart behind why this was put on here,” Steinmeyer said. “I have good reason to support (the community). I didn’t want it to be hollow. I wanted it to be a resolution that goes beyond putting a flag up a pole.”

While the mayor captured the spirit of what flying the flag would mean to him and surely other council members, Dan Hobart said, “And I think it is important for people of any and all characteristic to be welcomed, I think the role of government is to stay as neutral as possible.”

“They clearly expressed their support for the cause of supporting the LGBTQ community,” Weir later said, “but right now, they just don’t think we should be flying flags,” she said.

“I’m not trying to be confrontational. I’m trying to be true, that it’s something I feel is important.”