Minot City Council hears both sides of rainbow flag decision

Public speaks to council’s rainbow flag decision

Jill Schramm/MDN Residents listen to discussion during a Minot City Council meeting Monday. The meeting drew residents opposed to flying additional flags beneath the national and state flags in front of City Hall and those backing the right to do so.

A debate over flag raising that focused on Minot’s LGBTQ2+ community entered a second round at Monday’s Minot City Council meeting.

Two weeks ago, the council heard from Minot and other residents upset or angry over Mayor Shaun Sipma’s decision to allow Magic City Equality to fly a rainbow flag in front of City Hall. This week, some of those residents, along with other like-minded residents, returned to the council, but members of Magic City Equality and supporters, who previously stayed away due to safety concerns, also appeared to tell their stories.

“I will no longer be silenced,” said Jordan Laducer, co-director of Magic City Equality and board member for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition. “The LGBTQ2+ community has faced hate and fear and we will no longer be discouraged for standing up. We will not allow the threat to determine our value and our promise to our LGBTQ2+ community. Far too long, the LGBTQ2+ plus voices have not been equally heard, seen or recognized under this, and that stops now.”

Magic City Equality represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender queer, questioning and two spirited community. Christopher Brown of Minot said many of his friends who are part of that community have been attacked or threatened.

“So raising that flag means that this community cares for them, that we want them here,” he said.

“I’m really saddened by the display of anger that we had last week because I feel there are a lot of people in our community that are talented, experienced, educated, and they leave our community,” said Sabrina Herrmann of Minot. “A lot of it is based on people not being accepted for who they are.”

The mother of a gay young man talked about recent threats that her son would be beaten and killed and her business burned.

“No one is asking you to change your beliefs. We are not asking for anything other than to be treated as human beings, with the same rights as everyone else, because at the end of the day, we’re all different somehow,” she said.

Some residents who oppose flying flags like the rainbow flag said it causes division. Some used biblical references, and mini-sermons were heard to explain why the council should reject the rainbow flag and the lifestyle it represents. Others didn’t want any flag other than the U.S. and North Dakota flags to be flown, stating those flags cover all residents.

Sandra Sanders of Minot told the council that flags should not be raised that cause division among the people.

“We know there are issues out there. So why go out of our way to make those issues bigger?” she said.

Liz Hoppman of Minot said there is a silent majority who don’t want any special interest flags flown in front of City Hall but are reluctant to speak out for fear of being branded a bigot or having their businesses affected.

Residents who had been critical of council member Carrie Evans, who has been open but not vocal about being a lesbian, continued to take issue with her impassioned comments at the previous meeting, suggesting that she be held to account. However, others voiced appreciation to Evans for the capable way she handled attacks directed at her at the last meeting. Evans, who stepped out during much of the discussion Monday, did not respond, nor did other council members who spent over an hour listening to the public.

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted to put any future flag raisings on hold until a policy is developed.

“I believe the city did the right thing in flying the pride flag. The LGBTQ2+ community is an important part of the community, and it’s important to recognize and provide equal representation,” said Debra Hoffarth of Minot.

“I’ve been really saddened by what I think is outright hatred shown by my fellow community members,” she added. “It’s a tough time for me as a Christian to listen to some of the things that have been said about what a Christian believes and does, because I’m a firm believer that the Bible is not a weapon. It was not to be used as a weapon but be used as a tool of grace. A Christian stands with their neighbors. They stand with the disenfranchised. The humanity of the LGBTQ community is never up for debate, should never be up for debate.”

Simeon Waddington, Douglas, apologized for coming across as hateful at the previous meeting.

“I certainly don’t have hate in my heart for any individual. Is there anger? Is there disappointment? Definitely,” he said.

ShaunAnne Tangney of Minot said it has been a tough couple of weeks for the city she has come to consider her hometown.

“I know that many of you are hurting and demoralized and exhausted. But I want to tell you this. This is a good day,” she said, speaking to the LGBTQ2+ community. “Controversy can be unsettling, distressing, even traumatic. But it is surely a sign of progress. If Oscar Wilde is right and true progress is to know more and to be more and to do more, then we made a lot of progress in the past few weeks in my hometown.”


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