Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 10, 2018 6:35 p.m.
The Fernandina Beach City Commission’s (FBCC) decision by consensus the last week of June 2018 to fly the rainbow flag in honor of Gay Pride month set off a series of comments both pro and con. The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and LFBT social movements.
Seber Newsome III, a resident of Yulee, took exception to the city’s action. He walked outside City Hall carrying the Confederate battle flag during the days that the rainbow flag flew.
Newsome took an opportunity during Public Comment at the July 3, 2018 FBCC meeting to express his concerns.
“I do not have a problem with people flying the Rainbow Flag,” Newsome told commissioners, announcing that he has a gay family member. “I have a problem with doing it on city property, on a government building. If you allow a specialty flag to fly, then you have to allow specialty flags from other organizations to fly. If you don’t, then you are discriminating. And you might open up the city to a lawsuit, which could cost taxpayers a lot of money.
“And if the Rainbow Flag is flown all June next year for Gay Pride Month, I will walk every day with my [Confederate] battle flag. I’ve heard that some people wanted to fly the KKK flag, the Nazi flag, a Trump 2020 FLAG. I want to fly the Confederate flag for the month of April, since [former] Governor Lawton Chiles in 1968 designated April Confederate History Month.
“There was a lot of talk on social media last week. A lot of mean and nasty things were said. Let’s put all this behind us and move forward. The solution to this problem in my opinion is to only fly government flags at City Hall.” Newsome went on to suggest flying a city flag or perhaps the MIA flag in addition to the American and Florida State flags.
He addressed Mayor John Miller. “Mayor Miller, you opened a can of worms by your short-sighted actions. Now you have to take down the National Tree Flag, because it is a specialty flag. And that will make a lot of tree lovers angry. But fair is fair.”
“If you want to fly the Rainbow Flag, fly it from your car, your house, restaurants, hotels – anywhere, everywhere, but not on government property.”
He left the speaker’s podium to some applause. Mayor John Miller, who initiated the action that resulted in raising the Rainbow Flag as an add-on during a special meeting called on June 26 to deal with HB 631 (preserving public beach access), did not comment.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.