IONIA COUNTY, Mich. — A pair of business owners in Ionia County are upset and speaking out after they say they were discriminated against during Pride month.
"But it just seems, you know, this is 2021. You know, you can go into other small towns in Michigan and see pride flags everywhere," says YCD Electronics CEO Andrew Mourer.
To show their pride and support for those in the LGBTQ+ community, Mourer and his boyfriend decided to hang a rainbow flag outside their business in downtown Ionia.
"[We] actually didn't put the pride flag out until about the 20th of June."
But they say it was only a matter of days until the issues started.
"And on the 28th, we actually had the city manager come into our store and tell us that few of the downtown business owners had complained about the Pride flag," says Mourer, "and that as a result, they were requiring a permit for the flag."
Mourer says this was something that simply doesn't make sense.
"They didn't charge us to have the permit," he says. "But the permit gives the City now the right to tell us when we can take it down.
"And we're the only ones with a pride flag downtown," Mourer adds. "And the fact that they were so bothered by it, that they felt the need to complain just seemed really ridiculous."
Under city ordinance, flags can't be larger than 32 square feet and 14 feet in height.
They can be displayed indefinitely provided they're properly maintained and not torn, faded, unreadable or "otherwise unsightly at the discretion of the zoning administrator." These are regulations Mourer says their flag does meet.
"Yeah, I've read over the ordinance over and over again," he tells us. "I've discussed it with other small businesses downtown that I am friendly with. And none of us could find anywhere in the ordinance where [it] said [it] would require a permit."
"If they want us to have a permit for the flag, then they should require permits from every other business that has a flag out front," Mourer contends. "Or they need to eliminate the requirement of a permit and let us hang the flag when we want to."
Now they say they're planning to keep their show of support flying high.
"We had originally put the pride flag up purely for Pride month," Mourer says. "But now that we're being told we must take it down, we plan on keeping it up just out of principle."
FOX 17 reached out to the city manager, who told us they're aware of the situation and the owner's concerns. A review of the matter has been requested from the city attorney, and we will pass along those findings when we get them.