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Pinellas County homeowner fighting association to continue flying rainbow flag

State statute protects American and military flags
Posted at 6:01 PM, Oct 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-30 19:20:22-04

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — A homeowner says he’s not backing down after his condo association put new rules in place that don’t allow his gay pride flag to fly.

We learned the controversy isn’t just happening in Tampa Bay.

“I put this up four years ago,” Richard Hughes said, pointing to his rainbow flag. “Because I’m not ashamed of who I am and that’s when we came here to live here permanently.”

Hughes lives at Green Dolphin condos in Tarpon Springs, where he says he’s fighting a fight he thought was behind him.

“I think people should be able to be who they are,” Hughes said.

After years with no issues surrounding his gay pride flag, the Green Dolphin Park Golfview Homes Association Inc. has decided to put new rules in place. The only flags that can fly are those protected under state statute. Right now, that includes the American flag and military flags.

But Hughes’ attorney, Carolyn Margolies, says that law could change, to include the rainbow flag.

“Right now, lawsuits are pending in other parts of the country, for example San Diego,” Margolies said. “This same issue of a rainbow flag being displayed in the homeowners association has made it all the way to the appellate court.”

Margolies says attorneys are appealing court rulings that determine a rainbow flag to be a violation of the statute protecting only American and military flags.

“They’re being heard at the appellate court level,” she reiterated. “So that’s why I think there’s hope.”

The association’s attorney, Jonathan Ellis, told ABC Action News, “The association has absolutely nothing against the rainbow flag. In fact, I think the association’s goal was to allow no flags, period. But there’s a state statute that says the association cannot do that.”

He went on to say the rule on flags is just one of five pages of new rules and regulations the Green Dolphin association is putting in writing.

“We received a number of complaints from individuals regarding changes and modifications to the common elements,” Ellis said, saying the regulations are meant to regain control.

But at least one of those complaints did come from Hughes.

"It is being done in retaliation to my asking a question, making a complaint,” Hughes said. “They are choosing what they want to enforce and what they don’t want to enforce.”

As Hughes looks into other avenues to file a complaint outside of the association, Margolies is keeping her eye on the big picture.

“I think ultimately they will not be able to prohibit, the homeowners association, will not be able to prohibit flying the rainbow flag,” Margolies said.