Just a day before the kickoff of largest LGBTQ Pride celebration in Florida, held in St. Petersburg, a resident of the city was told to remove the Gay Pride flag she’d hung on her porch, after fellow condo owners complained, calling it “improper.”
“We have a Home Owner’s Association (HOA) community here that is very bigoted,” the resident, Robin Chipman, a retired commercial interior designer, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They’re using this as an example to say, ‘This is what we can and can’t do and what to believe in.’”
Chipman’s beachside condo is right near the setting of St. Pete Pride, which kicks off Friday and runs through Sun. Jun. 23. When Chipman’s friend and his partner decided to rent out the unit above hers to join in the festivities, she busted out the rainbow flag as a way of showing she was an LGBTQ ally.
“I was at Party City getting my lei and my rainbow umbrella. I saw the flag and thought it would be fun,” Chipman says.
However, just days after hanging her sign of solidarity, she received a letter from the HOA saying that her “improper flag” violated building exterior guidelines. The letter went on to “respectfully request” that she take down the flag by July 2— or pay a fine of $100 per day, up to $1,000.
“I was upset. It’s a right of freedom of expression. It’s a celebration of a people that have been oppressed for so long and they deserve to have their day in the sun like all of us do,” Chipman says.
Robin’s homeowner association, the Waterside at Coquina Key North Condo Association, did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. According to Chipman, the HOA’s guidelines allow owners to decorate the building exterior for holidays 15 days before and 15 days after the celebration.
“People are allowed to have flags on game day to show their support for their team. [Flying my pride flag] is just going along with the guidelines,” says Chipman, who feels she’s being singled out, noting that some of the condo association’s board members have had outstanding violations with no repercussions.
Although Chipman was planning to take down the flag after the weekend’s Gay Pride festivities anyway, she says she felt the need to speak out so that things like this don’t happen in the future.
“It sheds a poor light on all of us here,” she says. “I would rather not have to publicize it, but it’s wrong and I think people need to know that they can’t do this.”
Despite pushback by some fellow owners, Chipman says she plans to fight the existing rules so she can fly her rainbow flag with pride next year, and the year after.
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