Abbotsford made history on July 13 when it raised the Pride flag for the first time at its city hall.
In response to a request submitted in May by Out in the Valley, Abbotsford city council had voted unanimously on June 15 to fly the Pride flag.
"We were surprised, pleasantly, when they responded that 'In the absence of any policy to say otherwise, okay, we will'," Fraser Valley Pride Festival organizer Raymond Covenant said by phone.
Covenant said that about 40 people showed up to attend the flag-raising ceremony with Mayor Henry Braun. He said there weren't any protests. The rainbow flag replaced the Abbotsford flag, and was flown alongside the Canadian and B.C. flags.
Covenant stated that only "a very, very small but vocal minority that had expressed some concerns" about the flying of the LGBT flag.
One individual, Richard Peachey of Citizens for a Morally Strong Abbotsford, expressed his concerns at a June 29 council meeting.
"Frankly, the more he spoke, the less we needed to, which was great," Covenant, who also attended the meeting, said. "It gave us more media exposure and also it gave us a perfect response to those people who would ask why is it necessary to have Pride or why is it necessary to fly the Pride flag and we can simply point to someone like that and say 'That's why'."
After Abbotsford city council decided to fly the Pride flag, they received requests from various interest groups, organizations, and individuals who wanted their flags flown, including the Senior Citizens' Organization of B.C., the Pro-Life Movement, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Straight is Great, Sumas Mountain Farms, and Respect Life.
On July 13, the city council approved an official flag protocol.
Flags which will be flown include flags of the United Nations; of countries recognized by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, when an official representative is visiting; of official sister cities; and any required to be flown by contractual obligations.
City manager George Murray said by phone that, like the flags of the other interest groups who requested their flags be flown, the Pride rainbow flag does not qualify according to the new policy.
Accordingly, the rainbow flag may not be flown again at city hall in the future.
In the meantime, Fraser Valley Youth Society and Out in the Valley, who joined forces for the first time, will hold the third annual Fraser Valley Pride Celebration. This year has expanded to a three-day celebration, from Friday to Sunday (July 17 to 19). Festivities include film screenings, dance parties, a drag show, and an art show.
In other local Pride news, another LGBT celebration is being held in White Rock; Out in White Rock is celebrating its third anniversary on Thursday (July 16).