After months of planning, the city of Merced, CA (pop. 80,793) unveiled its very first LGBT community center this summer, proudly raising its rainbow flag and opening its doors to the public on August 30.
Now, that rainbow flag is being forced down.
Earlier this week, the center received a letter from the building’s landlord demanding they immediately stop flying the flag.
“We’re the first LGBT community center to happen in Merced ever,” Chris Jervis, president of Gay Central Valley, which oversees the Merced LGBT Center, told KVPR. “Having the flag up and then taking it down is a real slap in the face to the community because they felt suddenly there’s a place that welcomes them and now the flag is being taken down.”
In the letter, the landlord informed the center that only American and/or California flags were allowed to be flown over the building.
“What they told us was that if we were allowed to fly our flag then the other businesses in the complex would have to be able to fly their flags as well and it would be too complicated,” Jervis explained.
Sounds like a pretty thin argument to us.
According to Jervis, the letter also stated that the center was forbidden from advertising itself by using the flagpole. But workers insist that they’re not a business, their a community center, and the rainbow flag is recognized the world over as a symbol of gay pride.
Marissa Chavez, an organizer in charge of the center, told KVPR that the lease doesn’t say anything about the flagpole, and that there had been a verbal agreement with the landlord.
“We were kind of confused because when we had gotten the building, we did ask for the key to the flagpole and we received that key,” she said.
But to avoid further conflict, Chavez said the center “complied” with the landlord’s demands. The flag is now hanging in the window and the center remains open.
The landlord did not respond to requests for comment.