Responding to community calls to keep “Pride” and other divisive flags off of government buildings, a Central Texas county is proposing a policy limiting such displays to the U.S., Texas, and county flags.
The Bell County Commissioners Court was set to consider changes to the county’s building and grounds use policy during their June 20 meeting, though consideration was delayed until a future meeting.
“This isn’t trying to restrict anybody’s free speech,” said Commissioner Bobby Whitson during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I don’t want anybody hanging any flag that is going to divide our community. We know that the LGBTQ flag is divisive,” Whitson said.
When the Pride proclamation—proposed by Commissioner Louie Minor—failed to receive a second and thus wasn’t considered, citizens cheered but Minor accused fellow commissioners of “bigotry.”
Minor, the first openly gay elected official in the county, stirred more controversy by hanging a “Progress Pride” flag in the window of his courthouse office, where it is visible to the public.
Residents complained, and Whitson responded.
“I want to make sure that everybody understands the courthouse belongs to all people,” Whitson said Tuesday, adding that county employees can “make a statement” with displays inside their own offices.
“But when you hang it in the window for everybody to see it, you know, it’s divisive. We’re dividing our community. I’m not going to do that with a flag,” he said.
Local Democrat Irene Andrews, a lesbian who ran for county commissioner in 2012, spoke to the court during public comments Tuesday on behalf of herself and her wife. She called the proposed flag limits “wrong-headed” and “mean-spirited.”
Appearing on the Back Room Access podcast, Whitson explained to host Jeff Cason why he doesn’t support celebrating LGBTQ Pride, or any other sinful behavior, and was attacked as a bigot for saying so.
“I believe both homosexuality and pride are sins in scripture,” he said. “There is definitely a fringe in this LGBTQ group … I have to agree with them or I am absolutely the enemy.”
“There is an element of that in the Christian group, too,” he added.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to temporarily table consideration of the proposed policy amendments until they receive the county attorney’s comments on the draft revisions.
Residents can contact commissioners court members to express opinions about the proposed flag policy.