After weeks of back and forth, numerous city council meetings, and even international influence, the City of Solvang has decided to allow the display of rainbow banners for Pride Month this June.
This comes after a month of fervent public feedback from the community and a split decision by the Solvang City Council.
“Right around here, June 25, this park here will have the Pride Parade and Festival and you will see street banners along the street poles that say, “Solvang Pride, All are Welcome,”’ said Matthew Cavalli, Executive Director of Rainbow House Inc.
He says the displays will include eight rainbow-colored banners and will remain up for two weeks.
Back in early March, the nonprofit had initially applied to have its rainbow banners be on display throughout the entirety of Pride Month and across multiple locations in town, but the City Council voted against the application, saying the request was against city policy. The application was then modified and submitted again.
“They reduced it from 30 days to two weeks, that made it a little bit easier to accept because there are other events going on in June,” said Solvang Mayor Mark Infanti.
Following the application’s original denial, community members shared both their opposition and support for the banner application, with more than 100 people in attendance at Monday’s Solvang City Council meeting.
Last week, the mayor of Copenhagen, Denmark got involved as well.
“When the (Copenhagen) mayor found out what was happening here, that we weren’t living true to the values of the Danish people, she reached out and wrote to the (Solvang) mayor,” Cavalli explained.
In her letter to the Solvang mayor, Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, asked for a reconsideration of the City Council’s ruling.
"In the spirit of friendship between our cities, I urge you to give Santa Ynez Valley Pride and your local LGBTI+ community the full support of your City Council, in the same way that the Municipality of Copenhagen wholeheartedly supports Copenhagen Pride for the benefit of all Copenhageners," she wrote.
In turn, Monday evening, the Solvang City Council voted 3-2 in favor of Rainbow House Inc’s revised application, with Mayor Infanti’s decision being the swing vote.
“I think people stepping forward and stepping out of their comfort zone to say, 'We are here, we support this, we belong, we want inclusion,' really helped change the minds of the city council,” Cavalli said.
“What we wanted to do as a council was reflect the fact that we are flexible in listening to the people we respond to,” Mayor Infanti added.
Cavalli says Rainbow House Inc. also added an image of a windmill to their proposed banner to better align with the City of Solvang's values.
Mayor Infanti says the City of Solvang has since modified the requirements to their Street Banner Program, and he says moving forward, the only banner applications that will be approved will be for City of Solvang events.
Solvang’s Pride Parade is slated for June 24, and Mayor Infanti says he will be there to deliver a proclamation regarding the city’s support for the LGBTQ+ community.