The city's first openly gay mayor, Chris Clark, has proposed another first: flying the rainbow flag on a city hall flag pole.
"The rainbow flag is a symbol not just of the LGBT community but tolerance and diversity in general," Clark said Tuesday, making his pitch to fly the flag "for a day or two, or a weekend" at some point in June, which is pride month for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Clark asked the council's procedures committee to consider it, as he said he took a look at city policies about flags and "there wasn't anything around non-official flags."
Council members were largely supportive, though there were some concerns about how the city would now have to figure out how to treat other groups wanting to fly a flag. They voted 5-1 to consider the idea and maybe draft a policy allowing use of city flag poles.
John Inks voted no.
"I don't know how I would react if someone wanted to display a flag for pro-marriage or right-to-life," Inks said. "Until we've had a policy in place to determine what's appropriate, I think I'll hold off on this."
Council member Margaret Abe-Koga noted that the city of San Jose often flies the flags of other countries, and member Ronit Bryant said having a flag pole to "fly 'a flavor of the day flag' would actually be a lot of fun."
"In 2011, an Armenian group asked us to fly a flag and some Germans asked us to fly a flag and we said no," said council member Jac Siegel. "It's not that I'm not in favor of it but I'm trying to be fair to everybody."
No one from the public opposed the idea. "If you do something for one group, you really should do it for others as well," said council candidate Jim Neal.
Resident Don Bahl talked about the importance of the American flag and the city and federal rules for how it is used at City Hall.
"The flag is wrapped up with our feeling of American pride," Bahl said. "This flag was flown over the White House on Sept 11 2001. It was flown for Trina Bahl, my wife." Holding another flag, he said, "This flag covered the coffin of my wife's brother," a combat fighter pilot in Vietnam. "We should honor the flag and we should abide by the rules."
Clark clarified that the rainbow flag would not replace any of the flags flown at City Hall: the U.S. flag, California state flag and city flag. "This would fly below the city flag," Clark said.