In a heartfelt outcry, LGBTQ residents of Hamtramck, Michigan have voiced their deep sense of “betrayal” in response to the city council’s decision to remove Pride flags from public property. The move, which occurred in June and saw the council unanimously vote to ban Pride flags from public flagpoles, was explained as an effort to respect the religious rights of citizens who opposed the symbol.
However, this decision, even months later, continues to be viewed as a betrayal by LGBTQ citizens who had hoped the council would uphold the symbol of “diversity.”
Many residents of this small enclave just north of downtown Detroit had regarded these changes as a sign of Hamtramck’s progressiveness. The Muslim community, which had previously experienced discrimination, including incidents of voter intimidation and resistance to mosques’ public call to prayer, had finally secured their seats at the table, as reported by The Washington Post.
Nonetheless, the diverse fabric of Hamtramck, encompassing various ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, is now being put to a severe test. The decision to block the display of Pride flags on city property, following a divisive debate within the six-member council, has left allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community feeling deeply hurt and betrayed. They believed that the support they provided to immigrant groups had been met with a reciprocal embrace of diversity.
Catrina Stackpoole, a former council member who identifies as gay, lamented, “We welcomed you. We created nonprofits to help feed, clothe, find housing.
We did everything we could to make your transition here easier, and this is how you repay us, by stabbing us in the back?”
John Hansknecht, President of the Hamtramck Queer Alliance, criticized the decision, asserting that it was clearly aimed at the gay pride flag and not the neutrality claimed by some. He stated that the ban “has always been about being anti-queer rather than the neutrality they claimed.”
Mayor Amer Ghalib, also a Muslim, defended the decision, pointing out that the resolution limited the flags to be flown on city property to just five. He emphasized, “We’re not targeting anybody. We are trying to close the door for other groups that could be extremist or racist.”
However, Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel expressed her opposition to the resolution at a protest rally. She called on the city of Hamtramck to use its voice to represent all its people and urged them to dismantle the wall that had turned their proud city into a national embarrassment. Nessel emphasized, “Make no mistake, homophobia, transphobia are indeed forms of evil as much as Islamophobia is.”
Under the motion, Hamtramck permits the flying of five different flags on public property: the U.S. flag, the Michigan flag, the Hamtramck flag, the Prisoner of War flag, and a unique flag representing the nations from which many Hamtramck citizens originate.