Mike Ferrari and Bob Plominski have lived in Eastland Cove, a small suburban development north of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for about 10 years. “We call it our little oasis,” Ferrari said.
Over the years, he said, the couple have flown various flags outside their home in Oakland Park, including flags for political candidates and for March for Our Lives, as well as the Pride flag.
No one had ever complained, he said, until this month when the couple hung a small rainbow flag from their mailbox to celebrate Pride Month.
A few days later, on June 8, Ferrari said, the couple received a notice from the Eastland Cove Homeowners Association warning that they could be fined if the flag was not removed. Homeowners can display only the flags of the United States, the state of Florida, the branches of the armed forces or the POW/MIA flag, according to a copy of the notice. The couple could face a fine of up to $50 and then a daily fine of $10 if they do not comply within 30 days, under the association’s covenants.
Bob Brosseau, president of the board of the homeowners association, said someone had complained to the board about the rainbow flag, leaving it no choice but to enforce its rules against flying flags other than those that the association allows.
“We never had a complaint, and once we receive a complaint and we don’t act on it, the board can get sued,” Brosseau said. “Once it is brought up to the board as a complaint, we have to act on it.”
Still, Brosseau said, he and another board member had voted against issuing the violation notice. The board vote was 3-2, he said.
“As a board member, I was very upset that it was even brought up,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with” the rainbow flag.
The violation notice that the association sent to Ferrari and Plominski cited the association’s policy on flagpoles, but it said that the group’s board of directors had determined that it applied to any display of a flag.
Ferrari said they were not going to remove the flag.
“My husband and I decided we weren’t going to stand by and take down our flag because somebody, I feel, was offended by the flag in our community,” he said. “Ten dollars, $50, $100 a day — it’s staying up.”
In fact, he said, the couple had displayed more rainbow flags outside their home since they received the violation notice, and they had handed out rainbow flags to neighbors who had come by to show their support.
“I have the right to put up a Pride flag in celebration of what our gay community has fought for, for so long,” Ferrari said. “It’s a flag of happiness and joy and celebration, and there’s nothing mean about it. And it’s a pretty flag.”
In an email Sunday, Ferrari said he had gone door to door in the development, offering Pride flags. Eleven of the couple’s neighbors were now displaying them, he said.
It was not the first time that homeowners had been barred from displaying a rainbow flag. In Racine, Wisconsin, a couple recently changed the bulbs on their home’s floodlights to rainbow colors after they were told by their neighborhood association that they would have to take down their Pride flag, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In Eastland Cove, a community of 34 homes built in 2000, Brosseau said, “there’s a lot of texting back and forth and everybody wants to do the right thing.”
Asked what that would be, he said, “I wish it would just go under the rug and we’d live our happy lives like it never happened, but it depends on how the offender acts.”
Noting that the couple had added additional rainbow flags to their home, Brosseau said Ferrari was “just pushing it further and, to me, it’s asking for more trouble.”
Brosseau lamented that the violation notice, which was reported by NBC 6 South Florida, had attracted widespread news media attention. Making a complaint against the rainbow flag, he said, “just causes more trouble and it literally made mountains of trouble and it’s wrong — the complaint I believe is wrong. That’s my opinion.”
Ferrari said that despite the tumult, the rainbow flags would stay up until Pride Month ends July 1.
“We are standing our ground,” he said Saturday. “We are not removing our flag.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.