Councilman Dan Arriola will be part of Tracy history after he successfully petitioned for the Tracy City Council to pass a resolution, and agree to fly the rainbow flag, commemorating LGBT Pride Month in Tracy.
On a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the council agreed to fly the flag in front of Tracy City Hall on June 28, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City. That event, where crowds pushed back against police arrests of gay people at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, was the spark of the civil rights movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the U.S.
After Mayor Robert Rickman read the proclamation declaring June as LGBT Pride Month, Arriola told the crowd gathered in the council chambers that it’s more than a personal issue for him.
“I myself am proud to be the first openly LGBT elected official in the history of the city of Tracy, but this is not about me,” Arriola said. “This is really about recognizing the LGBT people that exist in our community. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This is about acknowledging that we as a community must oppose intolerance and hate.
“This really is about every young person who has moved away because they felt, in the past, in the history of our city, they’ve had to move to a more accepting community. This is about every parent who has had to console their child, their LGBT child, for being bullied in schools.”
Arriola said he was a teenager going to West High School in 2005 when the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church came to town for a protest directed at another West High student who graduated that year.
“And they had these signs that said the most despicable, hateful things about the LGBT community,” Arriola said. “Move forward a little more than a decade, when on the campaign trail, an anonymous hate blog attacked me on the campaign trail for my sexual orientation.”
At the council’s May 21 meeting, Arriola requested that the matter be put on an agenda for a vote. Councilwoman Veronica Vargas seconded his motion that night and again last night when the council agreed 5-0 to display the rainbow flag June 28.
“When Mr. Arriola did that request, I gladly supported it as the proud mother of a gay child,” Vargas said. “I feel representation at this point is needed and is welcome. I know that my son is about your age, and the struggles back in his early years were not easy.”
Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom, a director of the Sow a Seed Community Foundation, said the topic speaks to the needs of many of her group’s clients.
“We work with young people who struggle with whether they’re going to be accepted or rejected by their community, by their families, whether they’re going to be judged and traumatized,” she said.
“When we’re looking at whether you’re LGBT, no matter what your race, no matter what your background is, it’s important for us as a community that we stand by one another, because there’s a lot of trauma and hatred that comes along when we reject people and treat people unfairly based on them being different than us.”
The rainbow flag will be flown on one of the three poles in front of Tracy City Hall, which now display the U.S. flag, the California flag and the city of Tracy flag. The city has yet to determine whether it will replace the city flag for the day or be displayed on a pole with one of the other flags.
The City Council will discuss the matter again at the June 18 meeting. Interim City Attorney Leticia Ramirez noted that the council should be mindful that citizens could see the decision as a precedent that would make the city flagpoles a “forum for free public expression.”
“Our office is advising that the council adopt a flag policy,” she said. “We don’t have one right now.”