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Rainbow flags get reprieve for St. Pete Pride festival

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials and organizers behind the city's annual St. Pete Pride festival have hammered out a potential compromise that would allow the nonprofit to temporarily fly a slightly modified rainbow flag in the city's gay-friendly business district.

City employees "aren't anti-gay and weren't doing something specifically against the community," said Jeff Klein, co-chairman of this year's St. Pete Pride celebration, after meeting with city officials Wednesday afternoon. "It was just needing to find that compromise."

The calm rhetoric was an abrupt shift from the impassioned accusations voiced Tuesday by some organizers.

The overnight standoff began when city officials shot down St. Pete Pride's request to hang rainbow flags on light posts in the Grand Central District during June.

Organizers wanted to fly the flags in recognition of Pride Month.

City officials, however, said the flags do not meet St. Petersburg policy, which states all banners must meet one of four requirements: They must identify an area or district, give a welcome message, promote a special event or publicize a cultural venue.

But after years of Mayor Rick Baker snubbing the festival (the city's largest single-day event), St. Pete Pride assumed the worst. Organizers reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union to prepare for a potential lawsuit.

After the St. Petersburg Times and tampabay.com reported on the flag flap, city officials invited organizers to discuss the issue.

In a one-hour meeting, a modified flag with the words "St. Pete Pride" professionally affixed was tentatively approved.

The meeting ended on a congenial note, said Beth Herendeen, the city's marketing director.

"We all shook hands," she said. "We are very happy that it was a positive meeting."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Rainbow flags get reprieve for St. Pete Pride festival 05/27/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 9:22pm]

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