Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, lord mayor of Copenhagen, Denmark, wrote a letter to her Solvang counterpart, Mark Infanti, urging him to give his local Pride full support, according to Copenhagen Pride.
Andersen’s letter followed Copenhagen Pride’s meeting with Santa Ynez Valley Pride in March to discuss the City Council’s February denial of a proposal to hang Pride-themed banners and repaint two crosswalks with a rainbow pattern during Pride Month in June, citing that the proposal didn’t follow city policies and it didn’t match Solvang’s Danish roots, according to previous Sun reporting.
In her letter, Andersen discussed the history of Pride in Copenhagen and said that Solvang, “the Danish capital of America,” should embrace Pride the way Copenhagen does, according to Copenhagen Pride.
“In the spirit of friendship between our cities, I urge you to give Santa Ynez Valley Pride and your local LGBTI[-plus] community the full support of your City Council, in the same way that the Municipality of Copenhagen wholeheartedly supports Copenhagen Pride for the benefit of all Copenhageners, and to show the world that respect and acceptance are vital elements in a modern, welcoming society,” she wrote.
Lars Henriksen, Copenhagen Pride’s political chairperson, said in a statement that she was stunned to hear about Solvang’s opposition and the burning of two pride flags in the community last summer.
“We brought WorldPride to Copenhagen precisely because we are a beacon for LGBTI[-plus] equality and acceptance globally, and so the opposition to Prides in Solvang is far from reflecting the values we cherish in Denmark and Copenhagen,” Henriksen said in a statement.
Solvang Mayor Infanti told the Sun that he received the letter and responded by saying that Andersen had mistaken some of her facts. The city approved a Pride parade run by SYV Pride and this proposal came from The Rainbow House Inc., a separate organization, and the burning happened in Los Olivos, not Solvang, he said.
The Rainbow House’s Pride banner proposal will return to the dais on April 24 for a reapplication, and then the City Council will discuss the city’s light pole banner policies—which currently state that all banners need to assist in advertising and promoting destinations or events that support tourism in Solvang, must be a part of a Solvang-sponsored special event, and should match the Danish theme, Infanti told the Sun.
“These people asking for the banners do not meet that policy; we are going to have to give them an exception [if approved], and I don’t have a problem with that, but I am afraid that sets a standard that someone else is going to try and ask for,” he said. “We’re going to clarify that policy further and probably raise the rates.”
Since the proposal’s denial in February, Infanti added that he and fellow council members have been “inundated” with emails on both sides.
“It’s actually been rather stunning, and there isn’t a consensus either way—‘allow it’ or ‘don’t allow it’ type of thing. We have to get to important city items and this has just been driving us crazy,” he said. “We have city issues, infrastructure projects, police contracts, all of this stuff and we spent so much time on this.”
Kiel Cavalli, co-founder of the nonprofit The Rainbow House Inc., said that the mayor of Copenhagen shouldn’t have needed to be involved at all in order to promote inclusivity.
“I view it as a slap in the face—why would you not know this already? Why would you not just immediately accept and be open to how people want to be represented?” Kiel said. “I think that the statement goes beyond words, it solidifies the fact that what we are doing is correct, needed, and expected from the world.”
Since the proposal’s denial, Kiel and his husband, Matt, have received death threats and threats of physical harm, but as scary as that is, Kiel said, it shows them that they are on the right track.
“If we want to see change and movement, we are going to see some people really pissed off. If it’s important for someone to try and make it stop, then it’s even more important to try and make it happen,” Kiel said.
Matt Cavalli, co-founder of the Rainbow House Inc., said that they had to petition to get back on the agenda and they have since adjusted the proposal to just request hanging the Pride-themed banners for only 10 days, not the entire month, and they eliminated the crosswalk element.
The Rainbow House Inc. also included two designs in its reapplication: one that says “Solvang Pride” and “All Welcome” written under it in Danish, and the other that says “Solvang Pride” and “All Welcome” in English with the windmill logo blocked in a rainbow.
“The first time we went was very scary and terrifying; we hope that we don’t have that same experience this time,” Matt said. “We are a little disappointed we are even in this place; it shouldn’t have been denied, so for us to have to petition and fight it’s unfortunate that we had to fight to have it back on the agenda.”