Many communities recognize June as Pride Month, the designated month in which the LGBTQI+ community celebrates the freedom to be themselves. Unlike in prior years, the City of Sammamish did not raise the Pride flag or read a supportive Pride proclamation this June. Several members of the local LGBTQI+ community took notice.
The muted response was in stark contrast to last year. In 2019, the City flew the Pride flag at City Hall for a week, and read the proclamation during Pride Month as well, according to Councilmember Pam Stuart.
The flag they flew had been gifted to them by Plateaupians for Peace, a local non-profit. Sudeshna Dixit, the president of the Board of Directors for the group, said she contacted the city once again this year to see if they would fly the Pride flag, but did not receive a response.
“Sammamish just hasn’t even flown the flag,” said Liz Barclay, a 46-year-old Sammamish resident who identifies as being part of the LGBTQI+ community and disapproved of the City’s lack of attention this year.
Victoria Jesse, 43, wondered why the City takes the time to recognize holidays, but not Pride Month.
“As I drive down 228th and see the flag decorations for the 4th that are put up every year like clockwork, I wonder why the same isn’t done for Pride,” she said.
“As the proud mom of a gay son, I’m quite bothered to hear they didn’t raise the flag this year,” Shannon Russel, another Sammamish resident, said. “Last year, in fact, I emailed the mayor to let her know how proud I was of my city that they flew the Pride flag.”
When the Sammamish Independent asked about the oversight, Kate Langsdorf, communications manager at City Hall, pointed out that they did recognize Pride on social media. However, a review of City of Sammamish social media accounts found only two retweeted posts. One was from the King County account, and included a video of King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and County Executive Dow Constantine raising a Pride flag. The other came from the King County Public Health account that promoted a health-related survey for LGBTQI+ residents living in the County. The City of Sammamish did not issue its own Pride message on any social media channels during June.
A survey of neighboring cities showed they were more active in recognizing Pride Month. Redmond conducted several virtual events for Pride. Issaquah issued a small proclamation of support and flew the flag. Renton and Bellevue both issued new proclamations and flew the Philadelphia Pride flag this year in honor of people of color in the Pride movement.
“We should have flown the flag and we’re sorry we missed the opportunity,” Langsdorf said in an email response after the Sammamish Independent inquired further. “We have new staff here, myself included. In fact, I didn’t even know until very recently that we had a flag, and with the majority of the staff working from home, we haven’t been on site to note its absence on our flagpole in person and take action. With COVID-19, June came and went before we knew it.”
Langsdorf noted the City does have a Pride proclamation that was scheduled to be read in June before the pandemic hit.
Councilmember Stuart explained that due to COVID-19, the City Council decided to limit the reading of proclamations, which resulted in a growing queue of proclamations that were not read at their designated times, including the Pride Month proclamation.
Several days after the Sammamish Independent questioned the City about the lack of recognition for Pride Month, Mayor Karen Moran retroactively recognized the missing proclamations. During the City Council meeting on July 7, Moran announced that “As a result of disruptions caused by COVID-19, the City Council was unable to celebrate or mark a number of occasions of great importance to our community. Though their official time of national observance has passed, we would like to recognize five proclamations received since the emergency started in March. Each of the following proclamations involved topics that rightfully deserve their own spotlight.”
She went on to recognize the proclamations for World Down Syndrome Day, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, World Autism Awareness Day, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and Pride Month. She also noted how the proclamations were recognized last year on time, and said she will ensure they are added to next year’s calendar.
The mayor ended her announcement by saying “I really apologize for the fact that these were not able to be recognized this year…I wish things could be perfect, and it didn’t happen, and I’m very sorry for that.”
Moran did not read the text of the proclamations during the meeting, and it is unclear if they will be addressed in their full forms in the future.
Note: This article quotes Sudeshna Dixit, who is also the community editor for the Sammamish Independent. We quoted her because in her role for Plateaupians for Peace, she was the person who contacted City Hall and asked them to fly the Pride flag.