Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger says the LGBTQ pride flag is not scheduled to fly on the town's property in the month of June, which is Pride Month.
In Tuesday’s commission meeting, Danzinger cited a recent Supreme Court opinion in which the court determined the city of Boston couldn’t choose to fly some flags from outside groups while choosing not to fly others, as the flags were not deemed government speech.
The flag flew on Surfside property for the first time in June 2021 after a request made by former commissioner Tina Paul.
“It was an amazing sense of pride, of fulfillment, of joy,” said Paul.
Surfside spokesperson Frank Trigueros says the town has no written flag policy.
“... In the past, it has only allowed for Town or government flags to be flown except for once instance in 2021 based on a Commissioner's request,” said Trigueros. “Since this issue has been raised, the Town will bring this matter before the Commission to reaffirm past practices and policy.”
Former Surfside commissioner Eliana Salzhauer is speaking out against the flag not being raised.
“The reasoning behind not doing it is just an excuse and a cover for bigotry. That's what it is,” she said.
She and her son, Joshua Epstein, spoke during Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Epstein says the mayor told him flying the pride flag would open the town to people requesting flags with hateful messages.
“Let's put that pride flag up, it only needs three of you to happen,” said Epstein at Tuesday’s meeting. “There's no problem with us then having to put up swastikas, like Shlomo told me over the weekend.”
Danzinger texted NBC 6 about whether the flag will fly, saying he couldn’t confirm what will happen as the matter has not yet gone before the commission.
“... The consensus as of last night was to not open our town up to potential issues by being biased towards one cause over the other,” Danzinger told NBC 6. “The point of last year being an isolated incident was that the flag has traditionally never been flown. The basis of not flying the flag was the recent Supreme Court ruling. Essentially now it's fly all flags or fly no flags. We opted to keep town hall's flagpole to State and municipal flags.”
Former federal prosecutor, David Weinstein, spoke to NBC 6 about the Supreme Court’s opinion, and what it means for local governments.
“The case involving the city of Boston was that the flying of the flags was not government speech, so therefore they couldn't regulate who was or wasn't flying the flag contrary to what the city believed, which was that it did express government speech,” he said. “... It's not a question of whether [Surfside’s] accurately applying the opinion. It's whether or not they believe because of the opinion, if they decide to let a particular group fly a flag and then they don't let another group fly a flag, that they're going to be sued because of it."
In the context of the Supreme Court opinion, Weinstein says if the Town of Surfside itself chose to fly a particular flag on town property as government speech, town leaders would need to create policies certifying which flags are considered government speech, and which are not.
“They'll be able to set up those rules,” said Weinstein. “And as long as you don't violate the rules and they're not preventing someone from expressing their free speech, they'll be able to fly certain flags and not fly others.”
Paul says she hopes the flag will one day fly again in the town she grew up in.
“I just hope that this will become a tradition eventually,” said Paul. “And it's something that I think would move the town forward in terms of inclusivity and acceptance, and that is the whole purpose of it. And so I'd like to see that happen in some form.”