Videos of “Lewis County Welcomes Everyone” pride flags waving in front of local city halls have gained traction online, and at least seven local city halls — as well as the county courthouse — have been gifted pride flags as a part of the Lollipop Guild’s Pride Month demonstration.
“Joyous pride!” the posts read. “May you feel valid, seen and like you have equal representation wherever you are.”
The rainbow stripes visited the Lewis County Courthouse days before commissioners formally recognized Pride Month — a first for Lewis County. But even with the county’s resolution, not all cities plan to display their pride flags.
Pe Ell’s own flag sat in City Clerk Terra Oster’s office last Thursday morning as she figured out how to add it to the city’s flagpole.
“Well, we don’t have a policy against it,” Oster said over the phone. “I was just going to put it up … overall, just to make sure that everybody’s aware that we’re accepting here.”
In Toledo, City Councilor Emily Owen Morgan said she didn’t think the city had a policy against it, adding that city hall has a pro-law enforcement flag hanging in the building.
“I would be very happy to see a pride flag flown in town,” Morgan told The Chronicle, noting that the question may come up at the next council meeting. “I sure as heck hope it happens.”
In the Twin Cities, both mayors say it’s unlikely the rainbow stripes will be displayed above the city buildings this month.
Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes said the city has only flown the American, state and Prisoner of War flags.
“I think we’d probably just stay with that,” Dawes said.
He added the sentiment behind the county’s Pride Month resolution is “something we try to practice every day.”
“People can live their lives how they want,” he said.
Centralia Mayor Susan Luond said the city steers clear of getting “involved with group-type stuff.”
“I’m talking about any group. What if white supremacists wanted us to hang a flag?” Luond said. “What about that? Would you be offended? We just don’t go there as a rule. We’re not making any judgement, any statements. We just don’t do it.”
That’s a “disingenuous” comparison, according to Lollipop Guild founder Kyle Wheeler, who’s behind the gifted pride flags.
“It’s hard for me to understand people who make that correlation, because it’s very clearly not the same,” he said.
On Thursday, Wheeler took his portable Pride flag — weighed down by a cement-filled bucket — to Napavine City Hall to snap a video and offer city officials their own flag. The idea came from a “galvanizing” moment for the Lollipop Guild, Wheeler said: when the guild’s large rainbow sign in Chehalis was torn down within a few days of its existence.
“Now it’s a matter of doing it in front of all the government buildings as a reminder to them that we’re everywhere. Whether you realize it or not, there’s a queer community that is either there and hiding from you, or going somewhere else to be queer,” he said. “But we’re everywhere.”
For Nellie Williams, seeing the flags on Facebook was emotional. The third-generation Morton High School graduate came out as queer years later, saying it didn’t feel safe back then. Williams now lives in Centralia.
“Queer kids in the east end need to see that kind of open display of acceptance,” Williams told The Chronicle. “Something as simple as a flag can make a huge difference.”
Williams added that a lot has changed since high school.
“I think that’s why I still hold out hope that Morton will choose to fly a pride flag for the remainder of the month,” Williams said.
Wheeler also noted some elected officials’ reluctance to fly the flags due to citing city policies, written or unwritten.
“All the elected folks, you don’t have to fly it at city hall. Fly it at home. Post a picture of it,” he said. “Something like that is a way to issue your own personal proclamation without having to deal with the government overreach in the process.”