Two school districts in California, Temecula and Sunol, have faced criticism from parents and residents for banning the display of LGBTQ+ Pride flags, a move that has been described as “disconcerting” and “un-American”.

The Temecula school district in Southern California decided to outlaw all flags other than the US and state flags with a 3-2 vote, while the Bay Area town of Sunol specifically banned Pride flags, voting 2-1 in favour. This decision followed the approval of a plan in August to disclose children’s transgender identity to their parents if they came out at school.

A Navy veteran from Temecula, who attended the board meeting, questioned the decision: “How delicate is your sense of democracy that it’s threatened by a Pride flag? Taking down a Pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted. How un-American is that? You’re telling them, ‘Go into the closet. Be quiet. We don’t want to see you. We don’t want to acknowledge you.’”


In Sunol, the board meeting’s anti-LGBTQ+ hostility led some parents to keep their children home from school the following day. Parent Matthew Sylvester expressed his concern to The Mercury News, stating, “It’s disconcerting, it’s scary, it’s not right. We’re reeling and trying to figure out how to push back against this.”

The Gilbert Baker Foundation, named after the political activist who designed the first rainbow flag in 1978, identified similar bans across the US as a “disturbing new trend” and a broader rise in American conservative censorship. Charley Beal, president of the foundation, stated, “Make no mistake; right-wing groups want to roll back LGBTQ+ rights, and they’re starting with banning the Rainbow Flag. It’s part of a huge conservative trend to censor minority rights across America.”

The foundation noted that over 15 communities and school departments across the US have passed regulations to remove all rainbow flags since 2022, including places such as Cold Spring, New York, Stoughton, Massachusetts, Davis, Utah, and Huntington Beach, California.

Additionally, in June 2023, the Hamtramck City Council in Detroit, Michigan, unanimously voted to ban LGBTQ+ flags from public buildings under the guise of religious freedom. This ruling also prohibited flags with racist and political views. Council member Mohammed Hassan argued that he was “working for the people” and “what the majority of the people like”, while fellow city councillor Nadeem Choudhury noted that LGBTQ+ people should respect Muslim sensibilities.

The decision to ban LGBTQ+ flags comes amid a rising wave of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. Last month, a California store owner was shot and killed during a dispute over an LGBTQ+ Pride flag displayed outside her business. Laura Ann Carleton, 66, was pronounced dead at the scene, with officials later learning that the suspect had made several disparaging remarks about the rainbow flag outside the store before shooting Carleton.