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Calistoga raises rainbow flag ahead of Pride Month

After a two-week delay last year caused concerns about Calistoga’s commitment to its LGBTQ+ residents, city officials raised the rainbow flag at City Hall one day ahead of the official start of Pride Month. 

Photo by daniel james / Unsplash

CALISTOGA — After a two-week delay last year caused concerns about Calistoga’s commitment to its LGBTQ+ residents, city officials raised the rainbow flag at City Hall one day ahead of the official start of Pride Month. 

A proclamation officially marking June as Pride Month in Calistoga and directing that the flag be flown on the city’s ceremonial pole was read at the May 28 City Council meeting; the rainbow flag itself was raised on Friday afternoon. 

Raising the rainbow flag “is about doing the right thing,” said Calistoga Fire Chief Jed Matcham, who also serves as the city’s public information officer. “We want to make sure we show support and not have it possibly be pushed back a few days because of a weekend or something like that.” 

In 2013, Calistoga became the first city in Napa County to raise a flag in support of the LGBTQ+ community. California in 2018 became the first state in the U.S. to officially designate June as Pride Month, dedicated to awareness, inclusivity and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.

Since becoming mayor in December 2022, Donald Williams had tamped down on proclamations generally, stating that he “wanted to try things differently.” 

Last June, however, Vice Mayor Irais Lopez-Ortega noticed the absence of the usual LGBTQ+ proclamation and requested it be added to the agenda. Williams honored the request.

Williams faced widespread criticism in 2019 after abstaining from voting on a LGBTQ+ proclamation as a City Council member. Asked about the abstention, he said: “That was five years ago, and it’s been voted on unanimously every year since then, including my vote. I was happy to support it along with the rest of the council.”

In an interview last week, Williams disagreed that last year’s flag ceremony, held June 14, was late.

“There was no delay, actually. … It hadn’t been brought to the council’s attention; they were working on other things,” he said.

But earlier this month, during a council discussion about displaying the rainbow flag, Councilmember Lisa Gift noted the timing of the 2023 event. 

“There have been missteps in the past,” she said. “There was a delay last year, and I don’t ever want that to happen again.”

Gift proposed then that the Pride flag be raised on the “nearest weekday to the first day of June.”

City Clerk Yudiana Galvan noted during the meeting that she had already scheduled the rainbow flag commemoration for the last weekday of May.

The proclamation reads, in part: 

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) people form an important part of this national tapestry and contribute to every facet of our society yet they continue to be marginalized, discriminated against and physically and emotionally attacked for who they are.

“... The City of Calistoga recognizes that its entire diverse population deserves equal rights and opposes any oppression and discrimination that diminishes the quality of life for any Calistoga resident or visitor.”

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