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Rainbow Flag Causes Controversy In Rochester, NY


Late last week, a dispute took place over the display of a rainbow flag at the Monroe County Office Building in Rochester, New York after the County Executive Maggie Brooks (R), declared that the county could not display the rainbow flag in support of LGBT pride because it's against county policy to display "issue-based" or "advocacy" flags. While the city of Rochester is widely viewed to be LGBT friendly, as of late, the county administration has come under fire for not being inclusive enough when it comes to LGBT rights. Unsatisfied with Brooks' ban on the rainbow flag, Democrats in the county legislature decided to display the flag regardless of the County's disapproval. However, when Staff Director for the Democratic Caucus Joe Rittler affixed the rainbow flag outside his office window, local officials quickly took down the flag and a stand-off emerged, Democrat and Chronicle reports:

"[Rittler] went downstairs to see how it looked, and when he came back, Sheriff’s Office personnel assigned to the building had arrived to take it down. There was brief talk of an arrest, but when Rittler put his hands behind his back, he said security walked past him and removed the flag.

Rittler went out and bought another one.

Rittler said security told him that all requests to hang something from the building must go through the communications office. County spokesman Justin Feasel said since the flag was affixed to the outside of the building, they were worried about damage. The county doesn’t allow items such as fliers to be affixed to the building with a similar concern about damage.

Rittler again hung the flag out his window, saying it was affixed it in the same manner, and waited with Legislature minority leader Carrie Andrews, D-Rochester, for security to come back. This time, security left them alone, and the flag remained up.

“Although they were able to remove the flags using the sheriff’s department, the LGBT community can rest assured that we will not be bullied. A new Rainbow Pride Flag is now proudly flying outside our office,” Andrews said in a statement."

According to County spokesman Feasel, neither he nor Brooks were involved in the flag's removal.

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  1. Republicans, Resmuglicans, Rethuglicans, GOPers. What would this country be without 'em? One can only daydream how much more inclusive government might be without these bigoted thorns in the sides of so many minority groups.

    Posted by: HadenoughBS | Jul 22, 2013 10:31:35 AM

  2. If it's a law applied equally, I don't see the problem with it. If there had been one exception in the past, then let the flag fly. If this flag will be the exception now, then let other flags fly in the future.

    Posted by: Zeta | Jul 22, 2013 10:31:58 AM

  3. If you don't go through the procedures to hang a flag at a public building ...why are you suddenly a hero?...

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jul 22, 2013 10:37:25 AM

  4. If it's against policy and no other advocacy flags are allowed, take it down and shut up.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jul 22, 2013 10:54:25 AM

  5. This is why most jurisdictions have a park for ceremonial flag raisings. Usually the topic at hand is considered non-controversial however. This seems like a bit of uncompromising grandstanding. The county should have negotiated a public flag raising somewhere rather than letting this escalate.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 22, 2013 10:56:43 AM

  6. Frankly put, Maggie Brooks is waiting for Louise Slaughter to retire or pass away so that she can have the House seat she thinks she is due. This is just her pandering to the smaller-minded voters in the suburbs that she needs for victory. My fear is that Rochester will turn into Huntsville, AL - where a long-time decent Democrat is replaced by a batsh*t crazy Republican for the foreseeable future. Maggie Brooks would be a nightmare for Rochester in the House.

    Posted by: Frank in Rochester | Jul 22, 2013 11:04:57 AM

  7. I've seen POW-MIA flags outside public buildings and they seem issue oriented. Rochester is basically gay friendly but gay rights, like other civil rights, will be blocked for decades to come whenever possible. Hate runs deep. Confederate flags still fly for a reason. The GOP lost on gay rights but they don't believe the war is over.

    Posted by: terry | Jul 22, 2013 11:11:01 AM

  8. I looked up Maggie...HATE FACE!!

    Posted by: Johnny | Jul 22, 2013 11:20:02 AM

  9. Terry - According to the US Congress: "The National League of Families POW/MIA flag is designated as the symbol of our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing, and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation." -

    So that probably elevates the POW/MIA flag above an 'issue-based flag'. Of course, I'd argue that the rainbow flag represents a minority class of people rather than an "issue" but others disagree.

    Posted by: Lumpmoose | Jul 22, 2013 11:24:01 AM

  10. The GOP is losing on gay rights but they are not going to go quietly. Rochester [where I used to live] is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country. They had an out gay city councilman nearly 20 years ago and the first gay newspaper in New York was published in Rochester decades ago. This woman is pandering to what she perceives as her 'base.' She will ultimately lose.

    Posted by: Charles Decker | Jul 22, 2013 11:36:34 AM

  11. What seems to be the problem with the LGBT community following the law? Why do so many think we are the exception. We don't need to carry a chip on our shoulders like other minorities, just because! Come'on what's the difference between the "N" word or the "G" word?

    Posted by: Bill | Jul 22, 2013 11:43:08 AM

  12. Lumpmoose – And our Rainbow flag flies, in part, for all the brave Trans, Lesbian, and Gay folks who have been murdered in the cause of justice and equality. This also needs to be honored by public officials.

    Posted by: Ray T | Jul 22, 2013 11:50:04 AM

  13. We've got to stop thinking we can be the exception to the rules. Nothing will engender more resentment than if others think the gay community is bullying its way to get special treatment. It might work for the moment, but it will come back to haunt us. Follow the rules, folks. We aren't above them, and when we act like we are, it will eventually end poorly.

    Posted by: Jon | Jul 22, 2013 11:50:19 AM

  14. Another example of using eqaul rights to be more than just equal....

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Jul 22, 2013 11:52:27 AM

  15. I don't make fun of people's faces.

    Also, what possible "damage" can a flag do?

    Seems like such a flimsy excuse for removal.

    But yes, go through procedure so we don't end up looking like we're getting "special" rights. I just want the same rights, not special ones and that's the argument that so many on the right use, so why give them more ammunition?

    Posted by: the original johnny | Jul 22, 2013 12:20:00 PM

  16. We HAVE marriage equality in New York. Is it really necessary to fly the rainbow flag over county government property?

    I have to say: I hate how some fanatics on this site get sanctimonious and professionally offended whenever they don't get what they want. "A gay flag should be able to be flown ANYWHERE! Our people are dying in the streets!" etc.

    We've won the battle in NY. We won't get total acceptance. We have to live with that fact. GO! Live your life. Get married. Have kids. Enjoy. We don't have to keep pushing.

    Posted by: will | Jul 22, 2013 12:54:44 PM

  17. Will - Even after we win marriage and ENDA nationwide, I think the next big fight will be in schools and culture. Every child entering adolescence should be able to discover his/her own sexual and gender identities without bullying or aspersions. Until we live in a society in which someone can freely find their own place based wholly on who they truly are, we still have work to do. We will have to keep pushing for a long time to come.

    Posted by: Lumpmoose | Jul 22, 2013 1:02:27 PM

  18. since their 'rule' is "issue-based" or "advocacy" flags are not permitted, i think they should publish a list of every flag that has been flown in the past, back to the year that the 'rule' or law was instituted.

    we can bet that they HAVE flown "issue-based" or "advocacy" flags many, many times. we can even bet that some of them were republican inspired.......

    Posted by: mike/ | Jul 22, 2013 1:24:35 PM

  19. For heaven's sake, it was pride weekend in rochester--you're an ass, Maggie. The pride parade is popular with loads of straight rochesterians.
    Frank is right: Maggie isn't satisfied with Rocester anymore and wants a nice apartment off Dupont Circle. Thankfully, she lost handily to Louise last year. We need a strong candidate to protect Louise's seat in 2014.

    Posted by: woody | Jul 22, 2013 4:43:00 PM

  20. @Zeta

    I think I see were you're going, not every flag should be hung, a rainbow flag represents hope & equality while the KKK flag or Confederate (& other known hate groups) inspire hatred, segregation, oppression....all things that are detrimental to a flourishing society. So why not hang a rainbow flag, no one has to be gay to understand love, hope & equality for all.

    Posted by: gus | Jul 22, 2013 7:43:49 PM

  21. No news here... how is tiny hick Rochester not already Alabama? I'm sleays amused when licales self-describe as "widely accepted as gay friendly". This has the usual smalltown amusements and characters. I daresay rights are as safe and respected as they ever were, fake flags noteithstanding.

    Posted by: Chevytexas | Jul 22, 2013 9:21:42 PM

  22. They aren't heroes. A law that applies to everyone equally should be followed. Tacky.

    Posted by: datlaw | Jul 23, 2013 6:23:18 AM

  23. chevytexas, I've lived in rochester and alabama. you've obviously been to neither.

    Posted by: woody | Jul 23, 2013 6:53:21 AM

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