On Tuesday, the City of Duvall held its first public meeting to discuss the LGBTQ Pride installation that officials removed from a city fence on Main Street after someone (or a group) zip-tied a Gadsden flag and the Christian Nationalist Pine Tree flag—symbols associated with right-wing extremists–right next to it. 

The City’s decision angered the local queer community, who worried the City was emboldening political extremists. While no extremist groups showed up Tuesday, a dozen speakers at the meeting repeated anti-trans and anti-gay rhetoric that’s become increasingly common during a record year for anti-LGBTQ legislation. But far more people spoke in support of Duvall’s queer community and keeping the “Pride wall,” as they call the installation. However, as I reported in July, it’s kind of complicated

Sources told The Stranger that Duvall is, by and large, a cool small town for queer people to live. The Pride wall didn’t come down because the City opposed it.

The addition of the right-wing flags forced the issue because the fence is legally part of the public right-of-way, which is arguably subject to the First Amendment’s right to free speech and expression. Duvall officials told The Stranger in July that the City could risk a lawsuit from a white nationalist, or another objector, for censoring speech if officials took down the far-right flags but kept up the Pride wall. Leaving the hate symbols untouched two blocks away from City Hall was not an option, so it all came down for now.

To fix the problem, Duvall introduced a draft revision of its old public art policy and will consider changes to its right-of-way rules over the next month or so before it heads to the City’s planning commission or Council, Mayor Amy Ockerlander said. 

There is no clear indication of when or if the Pride wall could return, but the City would likely have to issue a permit for the artwork after revising its policies.

Ockerlander isn’t going to stand in its way. She’s a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights, and the first mayor of Duvall to raise a Pride flag over City Hall. Comments made at Tuesday’s meeting bothered her.

“I was personally disturbed at comments that insinuated that religion should be governing,” she said. “I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state. I was disturbed at the comments that said in one breath that said they love all people, and that members of the LGBTQ community are wrong and evil and sinful,” she said.

Public comment began Tuesday with Aaron Stogner of Carnation, senior pastor at Snoqualmie Valley Bible Church, who asked the Council not to mistake his disapproval of a “lifestyle” for hating a person. Stogner explained his belief that God made humanity to be binary, and those who advocate for Pride flags are actively trying to distort reality.

“That’s His design, and it’s a good design,” Stogner said. “Any deviation, aside from circumstantial celibacy or widowhood, is not only disordered, but actively sinful.”

Like Stogner, many of the speakers expressed explicitly anti-trans views.

A woman named Amber said she was relieved and glad that the Pride wall came down. She had no problem with gay people, or people “confused about their gender;” she loved rainbows. She did have a problem with drag story hours–a common target of right-wing groups–which she described as pedophilic. For the past three years, conservative activists have reanimated the “groomer” conspiracy, a lie that LGBTQ people systemically recruit children to be gay.

One woman who identified herself as Danielle said the Pride wall represented human rights for her LGBTQ friends, but also stood for ideas she didn’t believe in, like youth transition and trans girls sharing school locker rooms and bathrooms with cis girls.

Claims that trans care is experimental for minors and a long-debunked myth that trans women prey on cis women in single-sex spaces drive anti-trans laws in the US, while data shows trans men and women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their cis counterparts and that policies preventing trans teens from using the right bathroom also put them at higher risk of sexual assault.

One local business owner said the vandalism of a Kirkland Pride crosswalk proves that LGBTQ art makes communities unsafe; not the people committing the vandalism.

“We all know what happened to Anheuser-Busch and Target when they sided in favor of the LGBTQ community,” she said. (Both companies received bomb threats.)

Supporters of the Pride wall outnumbered its detractors, and they spoke about how the artwork was a symbol of belonging in their community. One woman bragged about her 28-year-old trans son, who she said makes six figures.

A trans man from Carnation named Leo was a counselor at a camp for trans kids this summer. He transitioned at 13 and knew their experience firsthand, he said.

“It’s hard to describe how incredible it was for that month-and-a-half, and it was even harder to describe how disheartening it was to come back and–all of a sudden–one of the things that made me feel safe here is gone,” he said. 

Jenn Hernandez spoke about how transphobia pushed her from her home state of Texas, and how she wasn’t going to let that happen again in Duvall.

Hernandez said it’s encouraging to see more Main Street businesses displaying Pride flags after the Pride wall came down. Carol Kufeldt, who commissioned the wall, has been handing them out with the help of other queer-friendly businesses in town. About a third of the shops have accepted their offer, she said.

Axton Burton, the artist who created the Pride wall, said the number of people and the intensity of their comments surprised and hurt them. Burton told The Stranger in July that they didn’t think anyone would show up to oppose it. 

The second half of the meeting, which included a City presentation on the public right of way, demonstrated that the City was working to resolve the issue, Burton said.

“I think the City’s doing good–I always want more,” they joked.