It took just one day for Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer to flip his stance against raising the Pride Flag at City Hall.
Fighting off tears, Mayor Jerry Dyer reversed course and now supports a ceremony for the LGBT flag on City Hall flagpoles. A ceremony is scheduled for Friday, June 11 at 10 a.m.
On Thursday, Dyer held a news conference introducing the idea of flying the rainbow LGBTQ+ flag at Eaton Plaza alongside the flags of other groups instead of at City Hall. After consulting with the gay community and attending a Pride flag ceremony at Fresno City College, Dyer changed his mind.
“I saw so many in the LGBTQ community, as well as family members who were standing with them, crying almost as if they had been freed. And I felt that same emotion inside of me that generated a lot of tears — a moment in time, I think I will never forget,” Dyer said of this morning’s FCC ceremony.
Dyer also said his “Unity Park” at Eaton Plaza concept is still moving forward, and would be in addition to flag ceremonies at City Hall.
Not a Political Gesture
Dyer said he wants people to judge him by what’s in his heart.
“It’s a people issue, not a political issue in my eyes. When you have your heart touched and realize that the things you do as a mayor can have incredible impacts on people, that impact can cause somebody to feel welcomed or excluded. And I don’t want people to feel excluded from the community,” Dyer said.
When the city council voted to change the policy last week, the Fresno County GOP issued a statement opposing the Pride flag waving in front of City Hall calling it “an attack against Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other faiths.”
Dyer realizes that he may have alienated the group that supported him during the 2020 mayoral election.
“If this is going to be a political decision, I wouldn’t be here today because I think, you know, many of the folks that have supported me may walk away,” Dyer said.
Dyer says he received plenty of backlash online from both sides of the Pride flag issue.
“I anticipate I’m going to get hundreds more because this is a very lightning rod issue and I happen to be the lightning rod on this one on many respects,” Dyer said.
Veto Still an Option
On May 27, the Fresno City Council approved, 5-2, a new policy giving themselves the power to decide what flags — beyond the U.S., state, city and POW/MIA banners — fly at City Hall. Dyer said he asked the council to develop a policy that had been more or less unofficial.
But, Dyer said he may still veto that resolution.
“I never wanted to be the gay president, but I guess today I am. People’s stories can change history. People’s stories can change hearts. People’s stories can bring a city together.” — Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith
“The concerns I’ve expressed since the beginning remain about groups seeking to raise objectional flags at City Hall. For that reason, I believe the city manager should be given the sole discretion to decide which flags will be raised,” Dyer said. “Giving this authority to one person, the person responsible for running the city’s government will allow for consistency once an agreed-upon policy is developed.”
Doing so would revert back to the default policy, where the city manager decides what flags fly.
Dyer said he expects a new resolution at the June 10 council meeting. However, the agenda — released Friday afternoon contains no such motion. The official proclamation for “LGBTQ+ Pride Month.” City Council President Luis Chavez or a majority of the council could still call a special meeting to discuss additional legislation.
“If not, then I have a decision to make by June 11th in terms of that language and policy,” Dyer said. “It’s not final, and like I said, we’ll see what happens this coming week on on a subsequent resolution.”
Dyer has until 11:59 p.m. on June 11 to exercise a veto.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria — who helped spearhead the City Hall flag ceremony — is open to a change.
“I look forward to engaging directly with (Mayor Dyer) and having a conversation about bringing forth a policy that is going to work for this entire city,” Soria said.
Support from LGBT Community
Dyer, at his news conference Friday afternoon, surrounded himself with members of the LGBT community, as well as local clergy.
Rev. Tim Kutzmark, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, praised Dyer for changing his mind. He led a round of applause.
At the Fresno City College ceremony, Dyer said he was moved by the story of openly gay campus president Carole Goldsmith. She said she was kicked out of her childhood home by her parents.
“I saw the look in her eyes and I saw the look of freedom,” Dyer said when the Pride flag was raised at FCC.
Goldsmith supported Dyer’s decision at City Hall.
“I never wanted to be the gay president, but I guess today I am,” Goldsmith said. “People’s story can change history. People’s stories can change hearts. People’s story can bring a city together.”
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) June 4, 2021