N.B. village's removal of straight-pride flag is discrimination, creator says
CHIPMAN, N.B. -- The man behind a New Brunswick village's straight-pride flag says he and his supporters are considering legal action or a political challenge of the municipal officials who took it down.
"There's a lot of people angry over the flag being taken down. The same as if the gay pride people would be angry if their flag was taken down," Glenn Bishop said in an interview Tuesday.
"We're not done. We're going to regroup and see what's next."
Bishop, a retired welder, insisted he is not the least bit anti-gay but is simply proud to be straight, and doesn't understand why Chipman village officials removed the flag after a single day.
Bishop had watched Sunday as Mayor Carson Atkinson and others gathered to raise the flag, which shows the symbols for female and male on a field of black and white stripes.
But Bishop returned the next day as it was removed in the midst of a public outcry. Comments had poured in on the village's Facebook page from residents and neighbours criticizing the flag as harmful towards the LGBT community.
Chipman's village council issued a statement saying the flag had been raised as a sign of support for all groups in the community, but it was removed as a result of "unintentional attention," and based on residents' feedback.
"This flag distraction is a lesson for us and for other rural communities such as our own," Atkinson said in a statement. It added "no harm or hate was intended," and that the village of 1,200 remains "an open welcoming community."
But on Tuesday, Bishop called the flag's removal discrimination against straight people, and said he and his supporters will meet soon to discuss next steps. He said they could include a court battle or perhaps a challenge at the ballot box in the next municipal election.
"One or the other or possibly both," he said.
"It costs a lot of money to go to court. It's a possibility, if the money comes in. And there's no money coming in."
Chipman had flown the rainbow LGBT flag this summer, and Bishop said he had no objections to it.
But he wanted to show his own straight pride -- he conceived the flag and it was made by a friend, and they went through "the proper procedures" to get it raised by the village.
He said one intention was to signal that the whole village wasn't gay, and to represent "95 per cent of the population."
"The straight people built this nation ... Now we're being told we can't say we're straight."
He said he spoke to activists at the flagpole on Monday, and explained his position to them, and offered to sit down with a representative.
"Maybe we can fly both flags together," he mused.
Asked about the straight flag's design, he said the black and white stripes weren't a response to the rainbow stripes of an LGBT flag, but just a way of livening up the background to the international symbol he says means "man and woman relationship."
Bishop said he grew up with gays and lesbians as friends, and he sometimes defended them physically as a young man.
"I'd do it again, but I'm an old man," he said.
"I am not anti-gay. I'm not ... I have friends who are homosexual and lesbian, and I don't have any problems with them at all."
Justin Smith, who grew up in the neighbouring village of Minto, N.B., said in an email Monday that he sees the raising of the straight flag as a "display of hate" that sends a disappointing message.
"There has been a lot of emotions that come with seeing community leaders act in this blatantly insensitive manner," Smith wrote.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, Smith said he celebrates pride after years of living with disrespect and bullying, and said he sees it as a way to honour those who have been killed over their sexual and gender identities.
Helen Kennedy, executive director of human rights group Egale Canada, said she wasn't familiar with the straight flag -- and Sunday's ceremony was the first time she had heard of such a flag being raised in Canada.
Kennedy said the council's decision to raise the flag was "unfortunate and unnecessary," and said it likely stems from a lack of understanding of the real symbolism of the pride flag, as well as a lack of understanding about the hardships faced by Canada's LGBTQ community.
"When the LGBT community recognizes an event like pride or sees the pride flag flying, it is an indication that their community is potentially a safe space for them to be and to live," Kennedy said.
"I think it's really unfortunate that the community has done this because it further marginalizes LGBT people and it makes them feel really unsafe in their communities."