Williamson County officials answered an important question this week: Will the county publicly promote high-risk sexual behavior on government property?
Earlier this month, two recently elected justices of the peace, KT Musselman and Stacy Hackenberg, requested permission from Williamson County to fly the LGBT rainbow flag for the remainder of the month at their public court buildings—right alongside the U.S. and Texas flags. With the request, Hackenberg was fulfilling her campaign promise to be a “progressive voice for Williamson County courts.”
“It’s time to turn Williamson County Blue!” she said last year. “For too long, Wilco has been seen as solidly and reliably Republican, but the times, they are a changing.”
Hackenberg and Musselman approached the Williamson County Commissioners Court Tuesday to get a final decision on the flag, and prior to the meeting, County Judge Bill Gravell posted a poll on Facebook to get public input on the idea. In just a few days’ time, nearly 70,000 people voted on the poll, with 52 percent against flying the rainbow flag. The post received roughly 3,000 comments.
Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting was packed with citizens and media, and numerous residents shared their thoughts on the issue.
“For government to adopt a political symbol for use on public buildings gives state sanction to a political viewpoint,” said James Bernsen, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran. “I proudly volunteered after 9/11 in defense of the American flag. That’s the only flag that represents all of us.”
“We’re asking to add a third flag that represents a personal preference,” said Larry Brundidge, a Vietnam veteran. “Is it [the county’s] responsibility to select one of those preferences and fly a flag in support of it at the expense of the others? I, personally, don’t think so.”
Deborah Hoag, a teacher at Austin Community College, said she would never display the flag of only one group in her taxpayer-funded classroom. Doing so would give the appearance of preferential treatment.
“I see my students as equal, not as gay students and straight students or Democrat and Republican students—just students,” she said.
After citizen testimony, Musselman and Hackenberg approached the podium and briefly stated why they think true equality demands flying the LGBT flag publicly, thus giving preferential treatment and support for high-risk sexual behavior. Gravell then engaged them in a series of questions.
“The question to me today is not what flags we do fly on our flagpole,” he said, “My question is: Where do we stop, and how do we decide?”
Gravell then asked the judges what other flags they do and do not support flying in front of the court building.
“I’d be interested in flying the transgender flag the week of transgender day of remembrance,” Hackenberg replied. “That’s the only one that came to mind.”
“What about the Christian flag?” interjected Commissioner Valerie Covey. Hackenberg paused.
“Is there one?” Hackenberg asked.
“Yes, there’s a Christian flag,” Covey said.
“And it represents all denominations?”
“It represents Christians,” Covey stated.
“For one, I do believe in the separation of church and state,” Hackenberg slowly began, “So, therefore, I believe that flying a religious organization’s flag is outside of that purview.”
In the end, Gravell and the commissioners discussed and came to a unanimous decision on the issue. Moving forward, for all Williamson County facilities, the U.S., Texas, and county flags will be the only permissible colors to fly on their public buildings. The county will not use government property to publicly promote high-risk sexual behavior, at least for now.
However, despite their decision, the true end of the story remains to be seen. Hackenberg has said in television interviews that, regardless of the commissioners court decision on the LGBT flag, she plans to do what she wants in her courtroom.