Detroit-area city bans LGBTQ+ Pride flags on public property
Jun 14, 2023, 8:33 AM | Updated: 3:14 pm
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit-area community has banned LGBTQ+ flags from publicly owned poles after a tense hourslong meeting that raised questions about discrimination, religion and the city’s reputation for welcoming newcomers.
In protest, a woman speaking during the public comment portion of the Hamtramck City Council meeting kissed a woman standing next to her Tuesday night.
“You guys are welcome,” council member Nayeem Choudhury said. “(But) why do you have to have the flag shown on government property to be represented? You’re already represented. We already know who you are.”
Some members of the all-Muslim council said the Pride flag clashes with the beliefs of some members of their faith. Businesses and residents aren’t prohibited from displaying a Pride flag on their own property.
“We want to respect the religious rights of our citizens,” Choudhury said.
Hamtramck, population 27,000, is an enclave surrounded by Detroit. More than 40% of residents were born in other countries, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and a significant share are of Yemeni or Bangladeshi descent.
The council voted unanimously to display only five flags, including the American flag, the Michigan flag and one that represents the native countries of immigrant residents.
Mayor Amer Ghalib made the flag a campaign issue when then-Mayor Karen Majewski flew one on city property in 2021.
“We serve everybody equally with no discrimination but without favoritism,” he said.
Hayley Cain said she chose to live in Hamtramck after moving from California because it was known as a diverse community.
“I’m questioning whether it is. … The Pride flag represents making space for all humans on all the spectrums, and this is where we’re going as a human species,” Cain said. “You can’t stop that.”
Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group, said Hamtramck’s strict flag policy doesn’t discriminate against anyone.
“If there was one group that was not being granted access to something while others were then we would have a problem,” Walid said.
He said some Muslims who oppose an LGBTQ+ flag are no different than conservative members of other religions with similar views.
“Flags carry symbolism. Those symbols carry social and political messages,” Walid said.
Detroit City FC, a professional soccer team that draws thousands of fans to games in Hamtramck, called the council’s decision “inexcusable.”
“Pride flags send a powerful message that all are welcome and that the community values diversity,” the team said on Twitter.