Does the rainbow flag have a place on city-owned flagpoles in Turlock?

Turlock officials have postponed a request to raise the rainbow flag on city property in support of LGBTQ+ people.

Supporters said the move would reinforce Turlock’s commitment to diversity in the wake of the Straight Pride event in Modesto last month.

“Just a simple flying of the flag would say so much,” resident Jeannie Robinson told the City Council on Tuesday evening.

The request would require a change to a policy, adopted in 2017, that limits what flags can fly, City Attorney Doug White said. Only the American, California and Turlock flags are generally allowed at city buildings and parks. Military flags can fly at Central Park, which has a war memorial, and at the Public Safety Facility.

The code forbids “third party” flags. This clause forced the city to reject requests for the Assyrian and Portuguese flags, representing two of Turlock’s prominent ethnic groups.

“The city’s flagpoles are not intended to serve as a forum for free expression by the public,” Section 2.09.01 of the code reads.

(The code was not in place when a San Francisco 49ers flag flew on City Hall in 2013. It celebrated the team reaching the Super Bowl with Turlock-raised quarterback Colin Kaepernick.)

The code does allow third-party flags in an area next to the council chambers that also has art displays.

The rainbow flag has represented lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people around the world since the 1970s.

White said the request needs more study to assure that any code change does not “open it up to hate groups.” He said the matter could return within a month.

The delay disappointed advocates who had hoped for the change in time for the annual Modesto Pride event Saturday. The annual LGBTQ+ event had lapsed, but it will return from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on a few downtown blocks.

May Rico, executive director of the Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus, was among the flag supporters.

“That’s the message Turlock would be sending to its LGTBQ community: We see you. We accept you. You are a part of us.”

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.