SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 18, 2013

Rainbow flag irks veterans

BEVERLY — A dozen veterans showed up at City Hall this week to protest the presence of the gay pride banner on the same pole as the American flag.

Speaking to the City Council, Vietnam veteran Victor Capozzi said he and fellow veterans are “dismayed” by the decision to fly the banner under the American flag on the pole in front of City Hall. He said the city should be flying the POW-MIA flag under the American flag.

“I’m kind of ashamed that I live in a town that flies a colored banner over the flag that represents the people who gave their lives for this great country,” he said.

Neither city councilors nor Mayor Bill Scanlon, who was in attendance, responded to Capozzi during the meeting. In an interview yesterday, Scanlon said flying the rainbow banner underneath the American flag “is a perfectly acceptable practice.”

“I don’t really know what all the fuss is about,” he said.

The banner was raised earlier this month during a ceremony marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Similar ceremonies were held in Salem, Peabody and Danvers.

Coco Alinsug, executive director of the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, said he had not heard any objections to the flying of the rainbow flag in North Shore communities.

“I do understand and respect the veteran’s frustration, but he really needs to have a full understanding and respect if he wants to be respected,” Alinsug said.

Capozzi said he has no objection to flying the rainbow banners, but it or any other “special interest” flags should be on a separate flagpole. Veterans have offered to buy the city another, shorter flagpole that it can use to fly flags or banners representing various groups, he said.

Capozzi acknowledged that there is no law in Massachusetts against flying a banner on the same pole as the American flag, as long as the American flag is higher and is not touching the banner. He said veterans will urge the state Legislature to pass a law prohibiting the practice, as other states have done.

“Special interest flags do not have a place with the American flag,” he said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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