IssuesLocal NewsWilliamson County Court Votes Against Flying LGBT Pride Flags On County Property

The measure was supported by LGBT activists and two justices of the peace, but received push back from some residents before being defeated.
June 18, 2019
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Today, the Williamson County Commissioners Court, presided over by Judge Bill Gravell Jr., ruled on an agenda item that, if passed, would allow LGBT and POW/MIA flags to be flown on county property.

Agenda item 37 was presented on behalf of Williamson County justices of the peace KT Musselman, Precinct 1, and Stacy Hackenberg, Precinct 4.

The two elected officials wanted permission from the commissioners, according to the hearing’s agenda, to “fly the rainbow Pride flag outside their court buildings during the month of June. June is the national month for LGBTQ+ Pride.”

The justices of the peace believe that a public display is necessary to prove Williamson County is “welcoming” and needed to ensure that “justice is applied to all constituents regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

These officials also wanted to fly the POW/MIA flag during the week of Veterans’ Day.

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James Birdson, a Williamson County resident from Taylor and an Afghanistan veteran, was one of the attendees who spoke against item 37 during the public comments portion of today’s hearing.

Birdson told The Texan, “When you fly a flag that only represents one group, first of all, it says that this group is valued more than other people. I think everybody should be valued.”

Birdson went on to say that, “Politically affiliated flags should never be flown [on public property].”

During the public comments section, Birdson asked the commissioners, “The use of government property for political means is illegal…is this [pride] flag not political?”

Zach Rodriguez, a 26-year-old from Austin and the first to testify in support of item 37, shared his perspective with The Texan.

“We knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but what it ended up doing is sparking conversation about marginalization, fairness, equality…all of these facets of reality.”

The court voted down item 37, and unanimously approved a policy that allows for the American and Texas state flag to be the only flags flown over county property. An exception was implemented for the county flag which must hang from a separate flag pole.

After the court issued its ruling, Rodriguez said that “the result was a result of reality.”

“Ultimately, this does not mean that we are going to stop fighting for the people of these communities,” said Rodriguez, citing the LGBT and minority communities.

Rodriguez also stated he hopes the question of allowing LGBT flags to fly on county property will come up again in “future, more progressive courts.”

During the closing moments, Judge Gravell asked Justice Hackenberg, “On both of the interviews I have seen, you have said to the media that regardless of what this court does, you are going to do what you want to in your courtroom…If you have already made that determination, why are you here asking us for this?”

Hackenberg responded, “This was a request, that I felt was needed to let those marginalized communities know they were supported. That idea of flying those flags, of having those flags posted in the courtroom came later.”

The last commissioner to offer their remarks before the final vote was Terry Cook of Precinct 1.

Cook said, “I know we don’t need a flag to challenge us to show love. But a reminder wouldn’t hurt.”

Cook continued, “That being said, I think as a county, it’s hard to choose which flags fly and which do not. Therefore, I think we must stick with our current two-flag policy.”

The only commissioner absent from the hearing was Cynthia Long of Precinct 2.

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Tony Guajardo

Tony Guajardo is a reporter for The Texan. He has been involved in politics since the fall of 2012 when he served as an intern for the now-retired U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio). He is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University.