Pierce County Council member won't sit in chambers over pride flag


Pierce County Councilmember Amy Cruver is refusing to sit in council chambers while a pride flag is displayed there because she said it distracts her and interferes with her ability to engage in meetings.

At the end of last Tuesday's council meeting, the Republican council member said over a video call that she found herself "at odds with my responsibility to focus on the people's business while in chambers, and being distracted with the memories or thoughts that the flag creates in my mind."

Cruver, who has represented southeast Pierce County communities in District 3 since 2021, has long disapproved of recognizing Pride month and the use of the flag above and within county buildings. Cruver did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

In remarks characterizing members of the LGBTQ+ community as depraved, scary and lacking "family value," Cruver said she was attending the council meeting virtually because she preferred to "avoid confusion and distractions [that] interfere with my participation in meetings." She also said Fox News was "very interested" in why she wasn't attending meetings in person.

As she spoke, Cruver held up a series of photos she found offensive, showing images she said were taken at Pride festivals and drag queen story hour events, as well as a photo apparently depicting someone's genitals after gender-affirming surgery which she partially obscured with her hand. Cruver did not specify where the pictures were taken or how she obtained them.

She said she will attend meetings virtually from her office down the hall from council chambers for the entirety of July.

Pierce County first recognized July as the county's Pride month in 2021, the same month as Tacoma's Pride festival. While June is federally recognized as Pride month, organizers hold the Tacoma Pride festival in July to allow people more flexibility to attend events throughout the region.

This month was the first time the pride flag was displayed in council chambers, after years of heated debate between Republican Executive Bruce Dammeier and the council's Democratic majority over displaying the flag within and above county buildings. Dammeier has barred the pride flag from flying over county buildings, but the council has control over its chambers.

After her statement during last Tuesday's meeting, the council was silent for 10 seconds before Pierce County Council Chair Ryan Mello defended the pride flag as "a symbol of inclusion, love and welcoming for all people in our community."

"I would encourage us to look at the diversity and humanity of the community that we are trying to lift up and not continue to other the community," he said, calling such comments dangerous and harmful.

Mello, a Democrat who represents District 4, is the first openly gay person to lead the council. In 2010, he became the first openly gay man elected to the Tacoma City Council. In an interview Monday, Mello said he sat "in astonishment and disgust" watching and listening to Cruver's remarks.

"I find it incredibly dangerous, those kinds of tropes, that kind of othering and demonizing and caricatures," Mello said. "These tropes of the LGBTQ+ community that are so antiquated, it really needs to be called out."

Mello warned there is a "direct correlation" between the perpetuation of these harmful and hateful stereotypes, and increased suicidal ideation, teen homelessness, isolation and negative mental health within the LGTBQ+ community.

On Tuesday, the County Council is expected to issue a proclamation affirming support of the LGBTQ+ community for the fourth year in a row. Cruver and two other Republican council members — Paul Herrera and Dave Morell — have not signed it.

The city's Pride festival will be held in downtown Tacoma on Saturday. Additional events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community will be held throughout the county this month.

"Our job is to create safe places for everybody," Mello said. The pride flag is "a very important symbol that everyone is welcome in our community, especially people othered and marginalized."


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