Flying flags at City Hall

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.

Seber Newsome III

“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.

Mayor John Miller

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.

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6 Responses to Flying flags at City Hall

  1. Chris Hadden says:

    I think Mr Newsome makes a very valid point on this one.

  2. Steven Crounse says:

    He does have a point, But it’s a loaded issue, The flag raised was one of Unity, Love, and Compassion. All others mentioned were of Hate, Racism, and Divisiveness. You know once in a while the Community should just do the Right Thing. We just had the same issue, with monuments to hatred, throughout the South. (Bedford Forrest, Gen. Beauregard, etc.) Offensive to many people. I would think that Banners such as the KKK, Nazi, and Yes, the Confederate all meet those standards. As for tRump, that’s a political banner.that’s a separate issue altogether.

    • Ben Martin says:

      The enterprise of slavery was criminal and evil. But by and large the “Civil War” was about extending a tax jurisdiction that applied to imported textiles. Lincoln is on record saying………

      “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

      The Union Army relied on conscripts. The emancipation proclamation did not happen until 2 years after the war started. There were black regiments that fought for the south. The idea that the civil war was primarily about slavery seems completely false. It dumbs us all down to where we do less critical thinking about the role of special interest groups in government – which can be detrimental to all of us.

      One perspective on Lincoln is that he was a corporate lawyer who was in bed with Northern Manufacturing Interests – and slavery was not real important to him – until the first 2 years went badly for the Northern Aggressors. The emancipation proclamation was a political move the keep England from giving support to those states who were fighting to uphold the constitution – specifically the 10th amendment
      .

  3. Chris Hadden says:

    Steven I hear what your saying but there are people in town that think being gay is against god’s commandments. There are people who think tearing down Confederate monuments is erasing history. People have all kinds of divergent views. Flying a flag is a show of support for something. Because the town is “everybody” the government should not appear to be siding with or promoting any single cause or group. As you said it is a loaded issue and it is sure to only cause further division.

  4. Marlene M Chapman says:

    In my opinion, no flag other than a government flag should be flying on city property. I am NOT against the rainbow flag as some of our very good friends belong to the LGBTQ community and we love and support them 100%. But, the raising of this flag on city property, in my opinion was rushed and not given proper thought or input.

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