"Your flag may remain:" Oak Creek couple's gay pride flag now allowed, eviction rescinded
OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- "This is who I am. This is where we live. It is what it is," said Kevin Kollman.
An Oak Creek couple made national headlines. They're taking a stand after their apartment complex asked them to take down a gay pride flag. After a weekend of viral controversy, they've received a response from the complex owner.
"The flag will fly."
The owners of the gay pride flag, Kevin Kollmann and Merle Malterer were given a 5-day notice for eviction last week if they didn't take down their flag. They decided the flag's message was too important and decided to take a stand.
"I just want to make a point and say not here, not now, not in this year," said Kollman.
The couple has been together for twelve years and lived at the Oak Creek complex for five. Last year they were asked to take down a Packers flag because it was considered advertising. When they put up a gay pride flag, they were told to take it down for maintenance reasons. The couple says the flag holder was already installed when they moved in, and they flew flags over the years without issue until now. They also point out flags are flying at other units in the complex and nothing in their lease prohibited them.
The couple first reached out on Facebook. They thanked their friend Wes for pushing them to bring the story to the local news. Then it was picked up by national and international outlets such as Daily Mail, Newsweek, Huffington Post, and multiple LGBTQ publications.
"Saturday night, I saw the posting from Spain. I'm like woah, this is big. We've started this big thing," said Merle Malterer. "Seeing the outpouring not just here, but where it went. Neither one of us would ever dream... What made us so special for all these media outlets and people across the world to even consider reaching out or saying anything? Most of us sit so idly quiet sometimes when it comes to these issues."
Malterer says the person from Spain said something to the effect of "For every 1 flag that gets taken down, 100 more need to be put up."
The couple had gotten legal advice and were speaking with the ACLU and a tenant union, and they were about to deliver a note to the property manager defending their first amendment rights and the rules in the lease when they received a response.
The letter from Bieck Management Inc. reads:
Dear Kevin and Merle,
Firstly, the 5-day notice issued to you last week on March 25th has been rescinded. No further action will be taken regarding your flag. Your flag may remain...
We will be discussing a new Country Oaks flag policy going forward that allows flags to be flwon that meet certain guidelines such as size, placement, location, etc. I would appreciate your input into this new policy, so perhaps we could meet sometime in the near future to discuss. No matter the final policy, we will make every effort to grandfather your present flag in its current location.
Finally thank you for you past, present, and future occupancy at Country Oaks. We will continue to strive to keep Country Oaks a preferred home for everyone.
"I don't think he backed down, I think he saw... that we all belong here," said Kollman.