Why several neighbors in Washington, D.C. are raising rainbow flags

Several of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s new neighbors are flying gay pride flags on their property to show solidarity with the LGBT community and their opposition to Mr. Pence’s policies surrounding gay marriage and rights.

Gary Cameron/Reuters
Homeowner Joanna Pratt stands in front of her Chevy Chase home where she's hung a rainbow flag in solidarity with the LGBT community in Washington, D.C.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is getting an unusual welcome to his new neighborhood – a street lined with gay pride flags.

Gov. Pence has rented a temporary abode in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Chevy Chase, a liberal community where 85 percent of residents cast votes for Hillary Clinton. After President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, he’ll move into the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory.

But until then, Pence will see a slew of rainbow flags stretching down his street.

“I thought it would send a message in an appropriate way. One idea was to put a ‘Chevy Chase [heart] Hillary’ banner, but we thought that would be too in-your-face,” Joanna Pratt, an environmental consultant who lives across the street from Pence’s new home and came up with the flag idea, told The Washington Post.

Instead of showing overt support for Mr. Trump's former Democratic rival, she and fellow residents decided to make their political views known by showing their support for the LGBT community, a group which Pence himself has clashed with for most of his political career, disavowing gay marriage and signing legislation in Indiana that allows businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to provide services that conflict with their religious views.

LGBT advocates have also accused him of supporting conversion therapy, a practice banned in five states as well as the District of Columbia which seeks to change one’s sexual orientation. But that conclusion comes from several vaguely-worded campaign proposals, and it’s unclear if the president-elect has actually advocated to spend tax dollars on such practices.

The Chevy Chase movement mirrors several other acts of solidarity following the unexpected victory of the Trump-Pence ticket. More than 72,000 people have made donations to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name, protesting the vice president-elect’s harsh stance on abortion rights and controversial past with issues relating to women’s health. Then, last month, the cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” took the time to directly address Pence when he attended a show, asking him to remember the diverse members of the US population and consider their perspective and experiences when serving in the Trump administration.

“We hope you will hear us out. ...We, sir, we, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who played Aaron Burr, read to a cheering audience.

So far, there are around seven gay pride flags on Pence’s street, and interest is growing in a neighborhood-oriented Facebook group. While some members of the Chevy Chase community have criticized the movement as an unwelcoming political attack, Ms. Pratt has taken a stance similar to that of the “Hamilton” cast — welcoming the president-elect and taking the opportunity to engage him in civil political discourse.

She even slipped an invitation under Pence’s new front door, according to the Post.

“Dear Governor Pence and Mrs. Pence: On behalf of your new neighbors . . . we would like to welcome you to the neighborhood! Obviously, your schedule is very busy, but if you had an hour to spare sometime, we would love to host a get-together with some of your new neighbors,” she wrote. “It won’t come as any surprise to you that many of your neighbors (including ourselves) have political views that are very different from your own. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the results of the election and would like to use this opportunity to set an example of how people with diverse views can still show respect for one another, especially by listening to each other.”

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