A North Carolina lifeguard said the backlash was immediate after he set up a rainbow flag to support LGBT rights on the Fourth of July.
Zach Hupp said he flew the flag Saturday from his lifeguard stand at Carolina Beach, and his employer issued him a warning after the complaints poured in, reported WECT-TV.
“Pretty much immediately someone complained (and) told one of the other lifeguards that they thought because I was flying that flag that I would only rescue gay people,” Hupp said.
One of those beachgoers posted a complaint on the town’s Facebook page.
“I was on the North End today, with about 35 friends, when it was pointed out that Lifeguard Tower #37 was not only flying a yellow flag, but also a gay and lesbian flag,” said Gina Benton. “As a long-time resident, I understand the importance of the caution flags, utilized by the lifeguards, but any other flag I thought was prohibited. Being the Fourth of July, an American Flag would have been more appropriate. I didn’t know how to explain this one to the tourists who asked us about it. Some knew exactly what type of flag it was, others wondered if it had anything to do with the ocean conditions. I hope that you can reply with a reasonable explanation.”
City officials said Hupp’s show of support violated ethical guidelines, and they made the guidelines more specific for displaying flags while on the job.
“What we try and tell our staff is we don’t take stances while on duty for whatever cause it is, no matter how good it is or how bad it is,” said Fire Chief Alan Griffin. “We stay unbiased, and we cover our beach and we make sure our patrons are safe.”
The fire chief told the TV station the flag could also pose a safety concern for lifeguards, who communicate swimming conditions through flags.
Hupp said he was surprised by the reaction.
“It wasn’t anything I was trying to go against the town, (and) I’m honestly surprised it became as big of a deal as it has,” Hupp said.
Watch this video report posted online by WECT-TV: