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Mayor reverses course, allows LGBTQ pride flag to fly over City Hall

After refusing to let the flag fly over City Hall because he deemed it a political symbol, the mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania, had a change of heart.
Ben Renkus carries a Pride Flag that was supposed to be raised over City Hall in Reading, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 2019.
Ben Renkus carries a Pride Flag that was supposed to be raised over City Hall in Reading, Pennsylvania, on July 15, 2019.Lauren A. Little / The Reading Eagle

A Pennsylvania mayor who came under fire last week for canceling an LGBTQ pride flag ceremony reversed course and said he will now allow the rainbow flag to be flown over the town’s City Hall next year for the first time.

Reading Mayor Wally Scott axed the event, which had been scheduled to occur last Monday, stating that he viewed the flag as a political symbol and that flying it would be against city policy.

Yet, in a video posted to his Facebook page Saturday, Scott expressed a change of heart, which he attributed to an unidentified woman.

“She told me about the first time that she realized she was gay. She said that her mother grabbed onto her and hugged her and told her ‘God doesn’t make mistakes,’” Scott said. “That moved me. I told them that they could put a flag up.”

While Scott changed his mind about flying the flag — which has been a universal symbol of LGBTQ pride and equality since it debuted in 1978 — he said he hopes people “keep the politics out of it.”

Reaction to the mayor’s change of course has been mixed, with many acknowledging that his course reversal is a marker of progress.

Michelle Dech, executive director of the LGBT Center of Greater Reading, said the city's LGBTQ community "changed the course of history last week" and added that the mayor's change of heart was "a cause to celebrate."

“Together we fought the face of marginalization, and we were victorious. As a community we proved we will not stand for discrimination but will work together to educate, advocate and address opposition,” Dech wrote in a statement emailed to NBC News. “This isn't about a flag; it's about people. It's about standing proudly and safely in authenticity.”

Others, however, expressed disappointment that the mayor’s decision came so late.

“We were happy he changed his mind and that he’s open to hearing other points of view, but we were all disappointed that he waited until the day before Reading Pride ended to do so,” Donna Reed, a member of the Reading City Council, told NBC News. “We didn’t have enough time to pull it together.”

The canceled flag ceremony last Monday coincided with Reading’s 13th annual LGBTQ Pride Celebration, which kicked off last weekend. The pride flag was supposed to be flown until Sunday, the last day of the festivities, but because the celebration has since ended, the flag won’t be flown above City Hall until next year.