Couple in Dispute With Group Over Gay Pride Flag
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Steven and Zeniff Vanderran say homophobia and ongoing disputes with their homeowners association are behind an order to remove a gay pride flag from their Queen Creek home.
“I’ve marched for gay rights since I was in my 20s — I’m 54 now, so for 30 years,” Steven Vanderran said. “I know homophobia when I see it.”
He is referring to a prohibition by the Cambria Ocotillo Home Owners Association against displaying the flag the couple began flying in 2003.
Cambria Ocotillo’s design guidelines only allow certain flags, including decorations for certain holidays, according to Jonathan Olcott, the association’s attorney. The association also allows military and U.S. flags.
“The story here is about a fellow pushing the envelope,” Olcott wrote in an e-mail. “It is a story about a poor soul who is not content unless he is in a scrape with his HOA.”
The Vanderrans, who are gay, argue that their request to fly the gay pride flag was approved in 2003 by a previous management company. They took the flag down in August 2008 after receiving a complaint from the association. They still display several holiday-themed gay pride flags.
A letter to the couple from Olcott said the association’s design guidelines permit holiday flags.
“The board interprets the term ‘holiday’ as the recognized national holidays. Those are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day,” the letter said. “A day celebrating Gay Pride is not yet a nationally recognized holiday.”
Steven Vanderran said that argument doesn’t jibe, pointing out that Easter isn’t a nationally recognized holiday either, even though the board permits Easter decor.
Olcott’s letter went on to say they could only display the rainbow (gay pride flag) “as a background for a holiday flag, as long as the holiday insignia is larger than the exposed portion of the rainbow flag.”
The couple says it has been the subject of slurs and mockery since the dispute began. In a May 11 posting on a local blog, a writer said the decorations were offensive and “If they want to flaunt their preferences in sex partners like that, they need to move into a gay community.”
Olcott said the association’s intention is only to prevent clutter and it’s not singling the couple out.
The Vanderrans counter the dispute is rooted in previous neighborhood scraps, including a legal scrum in which the couple was challenging the board’s legitimacy.
“They haven’t come out and said anything anti-gay,” said Zeniff Vanderran, who owns the home. “I know that they would deny that they are.”
Zeniff Vanderran said the board’s hassled them in other ways as well.
“We never have weeds in our yard,” he said. “They’ll still send us unwarranted letters saying that we have weeds when we don’t.”
Mark Lunt, a neighbor, said he doesn’t consider the couple’s gay pride flag clutter.
“Steve works really hard in the yard,” Lunt said. “In fact, everybody on this end of the street comes to Steve to ask for his opinion on what to plant and when. So, they keep a very nice yard. They’re nice neighbors.”
Information from: East Valley Tribune/Scottsdale Tribune,
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.