It took a single day for Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer to change his mind about flying the LGBT Pride flag at Fresno City Hall.
Thursday, Dyer proposed the idea of flying the flag at a newly-conceived park at Eaton Plaza, two blocks from City Hall. The flagpoles would be designated as a free-speech zone, enabling any and all flags to fly.
While Unity Park is still moving forward, Dyer decided that the free-speech zone was not enough for Fresno’s LGBTQ community.
“Yesterday I offered up what I thought to be a reasonable alternative to having a flag raising ceremony at city hall with the intent of unifying this community. However, what I did not realize was how this gesture would be received or perceived by many in the LGBT community,” Dyer said during an emotional press conference Friday.
“Although several folks have expressed appreciation for that attempt or that effort, I’ve had other conversations with folks that have expressed serious concerns.”
Dyer announced that he will attend the raising of the Pride Flag on June 11, and he implored all of Fresno to join him in union with the LGBTQ community.
“I was elected to represent all of the people – the faith community, and the LGBTQ community,” Dyer said. “I have a heart for people, for all people. I love people right where they are, just as I do the homeless. And I can either say that, or I can show that. I choose to show that.”
What was the changing moment for Dyer over the last 24 hours? While the mayor said he received hundreds of phone calls, emails and letters from the community on both sides of this issue, one moment appears to stand out: Friday’s Pride Flag raising ceremony at Fresno City College.
Dyer teared up and was clearly emotional when he discussed his experience at that event hearing from many in the LGBTQ community, including Fresno City College President Dr. Carole Goldsmith.
“I heard story after story of how members of the LGBT community have felt marginalized, excluded and not accepted by family, friends and even churches. Perhaps the most moving was the story shared by Dr. Carole Goldsmith who was asked by her parents to leave their home when they found out that she was gay,” Dyer said.
“When the flag was raised this morning I saw so many of the LGBTQ community, as well as family members, who were standing with them crying, almost as if they had been freed. And I felt that same emotion inside of me that generated a lot of tears – a moment in time I think I will never forget.”
Fresno City Council member Garry Bredefeld, who stood with Dyer on Thursday to announce the Unity Park proposal, said in a statement that the Mayor “caved in to the pressure, flip-flopped, and then held a press conference where Christians were actually criticized.”
Speaking to KFSN, he called the move a “disgrace.”
Amid Dyer’s emotional declaration of support Friday, one crucial question remains: What will happen to the resolution City Council passed last week regarding flag raisings?
That resolution gives each City Council member the authority to fly whichever flag they would like to outside of City Hall, except for religious flags.
Dyer expressed that he is not committing either way in deciding to veto the resolution. His issues with it were not revolved around the Pride Flag in particular, but were two fold:
- The three flag poles have been historically used for the American Flag, the California Flag, the City of Fresno Flag and sometimes the POW Flag.
- Councilmembers would be able to fly flags from various interest groups that he felt would divide the community.
Instead, he is expecting one of the council members to bring a new resolution forward to replace the previous one which would give the City Manager the sole authority to decide which flags are flown in front of City Hall.
“Giving this authority to one person – the person responsible for running the city’s government – will allow for consistency once an agreed upon policy is developed, and members of this community will be consulted as we develop that policy.”
If no such resolution is brought forward, Dyer said he will have to make a decision by June 11 on whether or not to veto the first resolution.
Dyer also said he will ask the council to add a community liaison from the LGBTQ community to the Office of Community Affairs in the budget.
“I really believe that’s going to be important as we go forward to not only provide advice to all of us, myself included, but to also make sure that as we go forward we have that constant liaison with the community on issues,” Dyer said.