Workers at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Merced say they had to take down a rainbow flag from a flagpole earlier this week after the owner of the building asked them to do so.
The LGBT center had flown the rainbow flag since it opened on August 31. But staff members say they recently received a letter from the building’s owner, and took down the flag.
Chris Jervis is the president of Gay Central Valley, which operates the Merced LGBT center.
“We’re the first LGBT community center to happen in Merced ever so having the flag up and then taking it down is a real slap in the face to the community because they felt suddenly there’s a place that welcomes them and now the flag is being taken down.”
In that letter, Jervis says the owner stated the American or California flags were the only ones allowed to be up.
“What they told us was that if we were allowed to fly our flag then the other businesses in the complex would have to be able to fly their flags as well and it would be too complicated.”
In explaining the reason, the letter also stated that the center wasn’t allow to advertise by using the flagpole. Workers say they’re not a business and the rainbow flag is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of gay pride.
Marissa Chavez, an organizer for the center and president of Merced Full Spectrum, says the lease doesn’t state it can use the flagpole for the rainbow flag but she thought there was a verbal agreement with management.
“We were kind of confused because when we had gotten the building, we did ask for the key to the flagpole and we received that key, but ultimately we complied,” Chavez says.
In the first three months since the opening of the center, which sits on the corner of G and 18th streets, workers say they’ve never had any problems with either the owner or Salvadori Property Management - which locally manages the building. The owner of the building could not be reached for comment and the property management company declined to comment.
For now, the rainbow flag is placed on the window and the center remains open.