The city of Federal Way recognized June as Pride Month for the first time in the city’s history at the June 18 council meeting. Photo courtesy of the City of Federal Way.

The city of Federal Way recognized June as Pride Month for the first time in the city’s history at the June 18 council meeting. Photo courtesy of the City of Federal Way.

City recognizes first-ever Pride Month in Federal Way

Proclamation declares June as Pride month; mayor declines to display pride flag at City Hall to avoid creation of ‘political forums.’

Federal Way is officially recognizing Pride Month for the first time in the city’s history.

During the June 18 council meeting, council members read a proclamation declaring June the official pride month for the city.

Council member Martin Moore was excited to introduce this proclamation in support of the LGBTQ community.

“Every single citizen in our great city makes valuable contributions to giving Federal Way its unique color and culture and identity.”

As someone who considers himself an ally, Moore said, he couldn’t be prouder of this moment to help support and celebrate diversity and unity.

According to a press release from Mayor Jim Ferrell’s office, this proclamation “affirmed that the City of Federal Way is a welcoming community and is fortunate to have such a diverse population, including citizens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies and pansexual.”

Moore said this proclamation would also help support LGBTQ youth in the community and make them feel included and welcomed.

“Suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are astronomical; our kids are killing themselves because they feel rejected from families and communities,” Moore said. “I want to make clear that Federal Way is a community for everyone, and it’s a community that will proudly welcome, support, and care for every human being who calls it home.”

Several residents accepted the proclamation from Moore, including Monisha Harrell, the board chair for Equal Right Washington; Isyss Honnen, TRANSform Washington program director for Pride Foundation; Manny Santiago, executive director for Rainbow Center in Tacoma; and Sen. Claire Wilson of the 30th Legislative District.

“This proclamation is public acknowledgement that the council and I are fully supportive of Pride Month, LGBTQ rights and the inclusion of all individuals in our community,” Ferrell said.

Allison Taylor, an activist in the Federal Way community, recently requested that the city raise the pride flag outside City Hall. However, the mayor denied this request.

According to a statement from the city’s communications coordinator Tyler Hemstreet, the city would not raise the pride flag outside of City Hall because it would “have the effect of creating a political forum.”

“It would in essence open up the City to requests from all groups representing almost every type of subject matter,” Hemstreet stated. “ … If the City agreed to this request, it would be difficult for the City to decline another flag request because the City must treat all viewpoints equally under the First Amendment.”

However, Taylor disagrees.

“I don’t find the pride flag a political statement,” she said. “It’s a symbol of hope for our community… of hope and freedom and unity.”

Taylor also pointed out there were alternate ways to display the flag, such as presenting it inside instead.

However, Hemstreet said while the mayor believes in every individual’s right to express their views and beliefs, the city “must respect the constitutional rights of all persons and allowing one flag to be raised and not another would be viewed as impermissible discrimination under the United States Constitution.”

According to an email between Ferrell, Taylor, and several city staff and council members, Ferrell said while he supports the LGBTQ community, “to avoid a situation where the City is obligated to provide a forum for an offensive or divisive message, we choose to limit our flags to just the three government flags.”

Taylor said Ferrell could have addressed the issue differently.

“The tone is the community might see this as divisive,” she said. “It feels like the city is lumping [the flag] in to potentially divisive messaging.”

Ferrell said it is not his intention for the pride flag to be seen as being divisive, and he believes a large portion of Federal Way is inclusive to the LGBTQ community.

“However, this is not the issue,” he said. “The issue is, what about the other requests that come later. We need to be careful of the creation of political forums so that down the road if something does come up the community finds offensive, we would be esentially prohibited from saying anything about it.”

Other local cities, including the city of Renton, are displaying the pride flag in support of Pride Month.

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