Flags representing LGBTQ communities that were hung from Arizona’s historic Capitol building for the first time ever Friday morning to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots were removed just hours after they were put up.
The flags had been hung by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who took to Twitter to condemn the removal of the flags – a rainbow LGBT pride flag and a blue, pink and white transgender pride flag – which she said was done on the orders of Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott.
UPDATE: Legislative Council, at the direction of the Senate President and House Speaker, removed the #Pride Flags from the @azcapitolmuseum. When I displayed the flags my goal was to highlight that Arizona is a state where all are welcome and respected. We still have work to do. pic.twitter.com/H07wLI8PKz
— Secretary Katie Hobbs (@SecretaryHobbs) June 28, 2019
However, the leader of the agency that manages the Capitol building disputed Hobbs’ claims.
Mike Braun, executive director of Legislatvie Council, said he removed the flags because they were “nonconforming” and Hobbs did not go through the proper channels in order to display them on the building.
He said he was not directed to do so by Bowers, Fann or anyone else.
“I think the rules are pretty minimum,” Braun told the Arizona Mirror. “There is an easy way to display a banner of any kind.”
Braun provided an email chain showing when and how he alerted Bowers, Fann and Hobbs that he had taken the flags down.
“It was absolutely not about the content in any way shape or form,” Braun said.
Bowers’ office provided the Mirror with a written statement saying the speaker “respects Legislative Council’s obligation to enforce Capitol rules governing displays equally and uniformly.”
“It is concerning that our state’s chief elections officer is disseminating partisan misinformation,” Bowers also said. “Hopefully this doesn’t reflect how she intends to carry out her duties.”
In his email about the removal of the flags, Braun said he returned the flags to Hobbs’ office, along with a copy of the State Capitol grounds regulations.
Braun said he did this “in part to help illustrate the various ways that the banners could be displayed on the Capitol grounds in conformance with the regulations.”
Hobbs broke three regulations, Braun said. One that states that any activity involving the setup of equipment must be approved by Legislative Council.
Capitol regulations also prohibit the affixing of banners to buildings, unless they go through an exemption process.
Braun said his office had not received any communication from Hobbs office prior to them putting up the banner.
Hobbs said her office began receiving calls from aides to Bowers 10 minutes after the flags were first displayed asking how long they’d be up for. Because of that, she said she assumed the flags were removed because he and Fann objected.
“He didn’t talk to me, so I was left to assume,” Hobbs told the Mirror about Braun’s statement that he did not remove them at the request of Bowers.
Originally, Hobbs had intended to display the flag from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today but decided to put them up later in the day. She said her office has no plans to put them back up.
“(Braun) has not directly communicated to me that we can put the flags back up,” Hobbs said when asked if she would go through the Legislative Council procedures, adding “this is not a fight about rules.”
Hobbs said she has not had any communication to her office from Bowers or Fann. Hobbs also said that she felt the regulations did not entirely fit to what they were doing. She said the flag was not affixed to the building and it was not “an event,” so no additional permissions were needed.
“I didn’t think I needed permission to hang a flag from the balcony of the Capitol,” Hobbs said. “It’s my balcony.”