A proposed flag policy in Oak Bluffs was debated again Tuesday by the select board when member Emma Green-Beach pitched the installation of a new town ceremonial flagpole.

The pole would fly non-federally recognized flags, such as the Juneteenth and Progress Pride flags, to promote town diversity and inclusivity, she said.

The select board was in support of the sentiment behind the pole, but some members were concerned about its potential to cause divisiveness over what flags can and cannot be flown.

The board agreed to invite the town attorney to a future meeting to weigh in on the proposed policy change.
“I would think that we need to have counsel involved at some point to make sure that we are writing a policy that won’t get us sued later on down the line,” said board member Jason Balboni.

Last year, the town flew the Progress Pride flag in June for Pride Month after months of debate among the select board, the town’s flag committee and members of the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP. The board had previously enacted a policy allowing only the American flag, Massachusetts state flag, Oak Bluffs flag, POW-MIA flag and military flags to be flown by the town. The flying of the Progress Pride flag was a temporary exemption.

Ms. Green-Beach, who is a member of the flag committee, is now hoping for a permanent home for ceremonial flags and has been advocating for the pole since February. She explained that the flags would be raised for one to 14 days, as determined by the select board, and be in commemoration of local holidays and events.

“This would be the town’s flagpole,” she said. “The town has the right to therefore say yes to particular flags and no to flags that the town decides are not appropriate for our community.”

Members of the NAACP joined the meeting in support of the policy, draping a Progress Pride flag over a row of seats.

The select board also welcomed new members Tom Hallahan and Dion Alley to their first meeting and voted Ms. Green-Beach as its chair.