Hamtramck City Council Bans Pride Flags 

Jason A. Michael

The Hamtramck City Council voted unanimously June 13 to ban Pride flags from flying on city property, citing the need to protect the religious freedoms of its residents. The city, which is about 50 percent Muslim according to the Detroit Free Press, has a history of bowing to Muslim sensibilities. Earlier this year, the all-Muslim council voted in favor of allowing the religious sacrifice of animals on private property.

"You guys are the ones making problems," Mayor Pro Tem Mohammed Hassan, who introduced the resolution, told those in the crowd who spoke in favor of flying the Pride flag. "Please don't threaten us.” Hassan reminded the crowd he was “the elected official” and was “working for the people, what the majority of the people like.”

Oscar N. Renautt is a member of Ferndale’s LGBTQ Forum on Facebook.

“Religion is used again as an excuse to deny the importance of LGBTQ+ quest for acceptance,” Renautt posted on the Forum’s page. “Asking for sensitivity while being insensitive to others is a contradiction.” When a city is displaying the Pride flag, Renault added, “it’s reaffirming the allyship, safe spaces, community and togetherness. The opposite means just that, the opposition.”

Back at the meeting, Councilman Nayeem Choudhury said that the queer community is not unwelcome in Hamtramck, but that the council vote is to “respect the religious rights of our citizens. … Why do you have to have the flag shown on government property to be represented? You’re already represented. We already know who you are.”

Facebook user Michael Freeman called for a boycott of Hamtramck following the homophobic vote. “Elected officials need to recognize that their service is to represent and advocate for all residents and it is not about their enforcing their own opinion on those they serve.”

State Rep. Mike McFall shared an official statement from the LGBTQ+ Legislative Caucus on the Hamtramck situation.

"Leaders who seek to stifle or deny Michigan's essential diversity cannot erase the reality that LGBTQ+ people exist in every city, town, and village across our state – and we're not going anywhere,” the statement read. “As Michigan's LGBTQ+ lawmakers, we stand in solidarity with Hamtramck's LGBTQ+ community and condemn the council's divisive and sad resolution that only serves to divide and polarize this strong and unique community."

State Senator Stephanie Chang also spoke out on the issue in a post she wrote to Hamtramck LGBTQ+ community members and their families.

“Please know that you have many allies throughout the city and state, and that includes me as your state senator,” the post said in part. “You are loved, you are welcome, and you are valued.”

Chang, who said she always displays a Pride flag in her office, posted that Hamtramck residents “of diverse backgrounds have lived side by side providing support and community to one another. During this time when hate crimes and attacks on LGBTQ+ folks are on the rise, it is critical that we build communities where every person’s humanity is respected.”

Erin Knott of Equality Michigan said the decision not to fly the Pride flag in Hamtramck was a narrow minded one. “The council is making a hurtful statement by saying, ‘We’re not going to fly a symbol of diversity and inclusion.’ That’s the message they’re sending.”

Knott added that the Hamtramck situation is not unique.

“Make no mistake, extremist groups want to roll back LGBTQ+ rights, and they’re starting with banning the rainbow pride flag,” said Knott. “It’s alarming and disappointing that municipalities and school districts across Michigan are taking measures to prohibit displays of rainbow Pride on public property and in classrooms.”


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