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Council faces ire for rainbow flag raising

Rainbow flag draws objectors to council meeting

Jill Schramm/MDN Simeon Waddington speaks to the Minot City Council Tuesday about the raising of the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag.

Area residents with strong feelings about flags and the LGBTQ+ community aired their displeasure with last week’s rainbow flag raising before the Minot City Council Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, Magic City Equality temporarily flew the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning community beneath the U.S. flag in front of Minot City Hall. Mayor Shaun Sipma, who approved the flag raising, had signed a proclamation declaring June as Pride Month. Magic CIty Equality held a variety of activities last week.

Sipma acknowledged the original flag raised was larger than the U.S. flag, but it was an inadvertent error that was soon corrected with a smaller flag. Several individuals who spoke at the council meeting objected to flying flags other than the U.S. and North Dakota flags, although some also took issue with the rainbow flag in particular.

“City Hall belongs to we the people,” said Donita Magnuson, Minot. “Mr. Mayor, you do not have the right to push anyone’s agenda or lifestyle on our city, especially a blatant display such as a flag at the building that is paid for by taxpayers.”

Some individuals, from Minot and elsewhere, quoted the Bible or warned that the city’s action in recognizing an organization could lead to the rioting and looting that has occurred in major cities that recognized the Black Lives Matter movement.

Steve Hamilton, Minot, added the city just set up a billboard for anyone to advertise in front of City Hall.

Some speakers also indicated they will take their business to communities other than Minot.

“I will not support someone that will raise a flag like that,” said Simeon Waddington, Douglas.

Despite the contentious environment, raised voices and two citizens who walked out in anger, extra police protection on hand wasn’t called upon. Individuals who spoke against the flag raising objected to inferences associating them with hate, although they indicated they are angry.

“It does make me mad. It angers me,” Waddington said. “I don’t see anyone threatening here, just anger – threatening to pull funds and support.”

Sipma said he listened to stories of hatred that members of the LGBTQ+ community endured because of being different. He said he’s taken many phone calls that included a tremendous amount of hate toward people of the LGBTQ+ community and himself.

His decision to support the flag raising, he said, stemmed from what he sees as “a population within our community that does need to have that issue addressed – the issue of hate. When they came to me, they had stated that they wanted a call for kindness, not necessarily acceptance but a call for kindness. And that I can appreciate.”

Because some of the harsh remarks were directed at council member Carrie Evans, she also responded.

“I am probably the first openly elected lesbian in North Dakota,” she said in an impassioned speech. “We are not some group of people who live in San Francisco or Seattle. We are here. We are your elected officials. We are your brothers. We are your sisters. And don’t tell me you’re not ‘hatred and anger.’ That’s all I feel, I’ve had to listen to it for days now as has the mayor and many of my colleagues. It is unacceptable. This city is big enough for all of us. Me having a flag flying doesn’t take away anything from your rights and freedoms. But you know what it does for me? It shows me I live in a city that appreciates and embraces me and the people of my community, and that I can live here and feel safe.”

The Juneteenth flag, in observance of the anniversary of the end of Black slavery, had flown in front of City Hall in 2019 and again this past June. Prior to Sipma’s term as mayor,the Norwegian flag and the Prisoners of War-Missing and Action flag had been raised. Sipma said POW-MIA has asked about flying its flag again this year.

“No special interest group should be permitted to fly their flag on the city hall flagpole,” said Wendy Walker of Minot. “There already is a flag flying above the city hall that represents each one of us. It’s the flag of the United States of America.”

“Putting something large under the U.S. flag is very disrespectful. Nothing should be on that pole, nothing but that flag,” said Nancy Bommelman Bruce of Minot. If the city is to fly other flags in front of City Hall, it should be the decision of the full council, she added.

“There’s a lot of emotions exchanged in this room today, but the overall lasting point is the American flag does represent us all,” said Josiah Roise, Minot. “The North Dakota flag represents all of us locals. And those flags are sufficient to be raised by our city council.”

Council member Lisa Olson spoke following the public appearances to state the scriptures were correct but the judgmental attitudes were not.

“As a Christian, that is not what I have been taught,” she said. “So I don’t feel that I was represented well, this evening, and I just wanted to make that clear.”

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