The city of Minot, North Dakota, announced it will no longer fly flags other than the American flag outside City Hall until an official policy regarding flags is established, following a heated local debate over the LGBTQ pride flag that made national news last week.
“Things have seemed to escalate around the community a bit,” Mayor Shaun Sipma said at a town council meeting Monday, noting that there are a “number of constituents on both sides of the issue.”
The issue stems from the municipality’s decision to fly a rainbow pride flag outside Minot City Hall earlier this month in recognition of the town’s LGBTQ Pride Week. Earlier in the year, the town flew flags commemorating Juneteenth and military soldiers who had become prisoners of war or were missing in action (POW/MIA). Minot had also planned to fly a National Rifle Association (NRA) flag Sept. 25, but that won’t happen in light of the town’s recent flag decision, which was passed in a 5-2 vote by the Minot City Council.
Just before Monday’s vote to develop a new flag policy, several council meeting attendees spoke out on both sides of the issue, according to local NBC affiliate KFYR-TV.
One commenter said the American flag already “represents each and every one of us,” implying there’s no need for other flags to be flown. Another, the wife of a military veteran, said she and her husband felt it was "not appropriate" to fly anything other than the American flag in front of government buildings.
Members of Magic City Equality, a local LGBTQ group that had requested the rainbow pride flag be flown in Minot, did not appear at this month’s earlier debate “for safety reasons,” but a representative did speak at the latest meeting.
“We will be forever grateful for this historic moment here in Minot, North Dakota,” Jordan Laducer, a member of the group, said. “As an openly gay male, and an indigenous person I can say we have all experienced in our own individual shared way what it means to be treated less than human."
Riley Held, a former Minot resident, drove over 500 miles from the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area just to speak at the meeting.
“Not only as an openly gay woman, but as a born and raised citizen of Minot, I was deeply disappointed by the homophobic display put on by citizens at last week’s meeting,” she told KFYR-TV.
During that heated public meeting Sept. 8, which made national headlines, several attendees made bigoted comments about gay people during a debate about the the rainbow pride flag outside City Hall.
Among them was a man who claimed that the "LGBT flag represents the genitals of certain Americans," another resident who said flying the flag could lead to pedophiles being "glorified," and a woman who said the rainbow flag would lead to "looting, riots and destruction." One woman at the meeting directly criticized lesbian council member Carrie Evans for being "dishonest" by not explicitly making it known that she was a lesbian during her election campaign.
Evans responded with an impassioned speech that went viral.
“This city is big enough for all of us. Me having a flag flying doesn't take away anything from your rights and freedoms,” she said. “We're here, we're queer, and we're not going away."