AUGUSTA — A request from a city councilor that the city hang Pride flags on city flag poles to show support for the LGBTQ community has prompted concern from the mayor and some officials that doing so without a policy in place first could bring lawsuits.

Councilors are thus scheduled to discuss the issue more at their meeting Thursday, and city administrators are working toward coming up with a policy that could regulate what sort of flags, other than the U.S. flag, that could be displayed on city flag poles or other property.

In the meantime, city officials are also working on a proclamation or resolution to show support for members of the gay community, with June designated as Pride Month and June 28 as Pride Day. That gesture could be in lieu of the city flying any Pride flags on city property, at least until the lengthy process of establishing a new policy on what flags could be displayed, and where, is completed.

Other communities are marking Pride Month in different ways. Neighboring Hallowell, for instance, painted a colorful crosswalk in the colors of the Progress Pride Flag last week on Central Street at the corner of Water Street in downtown.

People walk on a rainbow-colored crosswalk Friday, June 4, on Central Street at the corner of Water Street in downtown Hallowell. The city painted the colorful crosswalk in the colors of the Progress Pride Flag earlier in the week as part of Pride Month observances. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

At-Large Councilor Raegan LaRochelle raised the issue at last week’s Augusta City Council meeting, though the matter was not on the meeting’s agenda, with other councilors voting, 7-1, to suspend the city’s meeting rules to allow the item to be discussed. LaRochelle said she appreciated other councilors’ concerns about putting a Pride flag on a city flag pole, without a policy on what types of flags could be displayed by the city. They agreed to revisit the issue at this Thursday’s council meeting.

“I appreciate what people are saying. I’m also wanting to help our community members know that the city is a supportive place for everyone, and I personally like the idea of the flag being prominently displayed, in some way, by the city,” she said. “I have had people ask me about it, I think it’s very important. I know other communities have done it. And I think we should figure out a way to get it done.”

Mayor David Rollins and some city councilors said numerous municipalities that have allowed Pride flags on their property or poles have been sued, including by other groups also wishing to have flags or banners, about their causes, displayed.

“It has been litigated nationwide, and a lot of that centers around the policy that you put in place, and the locations in which you’d display the flag,” said At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander. “That’s very expensive and very controversial. So I would like to avoid that if possible.”

Eric Conrad, director of communication and educational services for Maine Municipal Association, said Tuesday that neither he nor the association’s legal department knew of any Maine cities or towns with flag policies.

In preparation for Thursday’s council discussion, Susan Robertson, human resources director and assistant city manager, found flag policies from some other municipalities, including one from Montpelier, Vermont, and two from municipalities in California, as potential model policies for city officials to work with.

Councilors who spoke on the issue last week all endorsed the city issuing a proclamation or resolution expressing support for the LGBTQ community.

Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, said councilors can issue a resolution in support of something without then creating an obligation to issue resolutions at the request of other groups or for other causes. But he said it would be better to have a policy in place before displaying a flag supporting a cause on city property.

“You are allowed to have a resolution on any issue you want, and not,” Langsdorf said. “So, you don’t get this issue of, ‘You flew this flag and now we have a First Amendment issue, and how are you choosing from between these groups,’ which we very much need a policy to do. So I’d strongly urge you to stick with the plan for now of a well-worded resolution or recognition of Pride Day.”

Langsdorf said he could work to try to come up with the best policy as a “wiser way to proceed rather than jumping into something.”

“I’m happy to work with you so, next year, we’d have a policy in place that I would feel very comfortable defending,” he said.

At-Large Councilor Courtney Allen agreed with doing a proclamation showing support for the LGBTQ community this year but said the city needs to have a policy in place “because I want to commit right now that I will bring it back next year. And I hope we’ll all agree to support the Pride movement in June of 2022.”


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