Officials in Delaware, Ohio, have suspended the city’s flag program, citing concerns over a Supreme Court decision released earlier this month. This central Ohio municipality became one of the first cities in the country to take this action.
Though Shurtleff v The City of Boston does not specifically mention LGBTQ+ Pride flags, it may have larger implications when it comes to where Pride flags are raised in cities and towns across Ohio.
On May 2, the Court ruled unanimously in favor of a Harold Shurtleff, a petitioner whose application to fly a Christian flag on city property was denied.
Over a twelve year period, the city’s flag program raised nearly 300 flags on city property representing private groups or organizations — including LGBTQ+ and transgender Pride flags.
The Court ruled that the flags raised on city property as part of the program did not constitute government speech, but rather individual free speech. Therefore, the City of Boston violated the First Amendment rights of the petitioner by denying his application to fly a religious flag.
For municipalities across the country that run similar flag or banner programs based on public petitions, the Shurtleff ruling may mean taking a closer look at which flags are approved.
In 2021, the City of Delaware hung LGBTQ+ Pride banners on city property for the first time. But because Delaware’s upcoming Delaware Ohio Pride Festival on June 4 is not sponsored by the city, LGBTQ+ flags and banners will not be flown on city property in the coming weeks.
Instead, the city will exclusively display American flags and banners “supporting veterans and city-sponsored events,” during the program’s suspension, according to a May 8 statement by Delaware City Manager Thomas Homan.
Homan also said the city’s flag policy review process will likely take months.
“While unfortunate for our local nonprofit organizations who use the banner and flag program to support cultural and community events,” he added, “it is reasonable and prudent to take this step to protect the city’s interests.” 🔥