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Pride flags will fly in Galesburg; council appoints independent legislative counsel

Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio

At a spirited four-hour meeting filled with public input, the Galesburg city council approved flying pride flags at city hall and on the public square this year.

Flying the flags required an amendment to the city's Pride Month resolution in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

That's because four council members last week asked for flag-flying to be removed from the resolution until the city has a flag ordinance or policy, and over other concerns.

Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community addressed the council on what flying the flag represents.

Some said the flag is a beacon of hope for acceptance and a symbol of safety for marginalized people who often encounter violence and have high suicide rates.

Others asked the council to go ahead and fly the flags this year, then develop a flag policy.

Council Member Sarah Davis, the only openly queer person elected to the council, said the city set a precedent by flying the pride flag in previous years.

“So, by turning around and ripping that away? That will snowball. The following year, there will be denial. No, we don’t want a resolution because it might make some people uncomfortable,” she said. “And let me tell you something, you can’t put one person’s discomfort and value it over another person’s existence.”

 A pride flag is draped over Ward Six Council Member Sarah Davis' seat at the June 5, 2023 council meeting.
Eleanor Lindenmayer
Tri States Public Radio
A pride flag is draped over Ward Six Council Member Sarah Davis' seat at the June 5, 2023 council meeting.

Davis moved to amend the resolution to include flying the flags. That was approved on a 4-2 vote, with Council Members Wayne Dennis and Evan Miller voting no and Heather Acerra abstaining.

Acerra said she is inclusive but she wants a flag ordinance to protect the city, should other organizations or entities wish to fly their flags on city property.

She also said she is trying to represent constituents with different opinions and perspectives and it’s about 50-50 in her ward on flying the pride flags.

“We represent the whole city and I’ve heard from a lot of people,” Acerra said. “And a lot of people feel, whether it’s true or not … that it is insulting to their religion.”  

Then the council approved the amended Pride Month resolution on a 6-1 vote, with only Miller voting against it.

Pride flags have flown on city property during June for Pride Month since 2020.

Last year the city’s Pride Month resolution – that included flag-flying – was unanimously approved as part of the consent agenda.

Also at this week’s meeting the council approved hiring the law firm Ancel Glink P.C. as independent legislative counsel on a 5-2 vote, with Davis and Dwight White voting against.

Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, a partner for Ancel Glink, said she was contacted by Acerra in early May about providing legal services to the council.

The firm will provide legal opinions to council members, and offer legislative guidance on topics such as creating a flag ordinance for the city, but will not replace or usurp the city’s executive legal counsel.

Ancel Glink will be paid $250 per hour for legal services and $150 per hour for paralegal services, plus expenses incurred.

Krafthefer said Ancel Glink will not be paid for work before the appointment was approved, such as conversations with council members, drafting the ordinance to hire the firm, and travel to Galesburg to attend meetings.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.