A Florida woman is outraged after her Homeowners Association (HOA) at the condominium complex where she lives ordered her to take down an LGBTQ pride flag, Yahoo Lifestyle reports.
Robin Chipman, a retired commercial interior designer, lives in a beachside condominium complex in St. Petersburg. What’s more, her condo is adjacent to the site of this weekend’s planned St. Pete Pride event (June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ community). To that end, she decided to stop by a local party-supply store and load up on festive accouterments.
“I was at Party City getting my lei and my rainbow umbrella. I saw the [LGBTQ pride] flag and thought it would be fun,” she said.
She took it home and hung it up, and just a couple of days later, received a note from her HOA: take down the “improper” flag, or face a fine of $100 per day, up to a maximum of $1,000.
“I was upset. It’s a right of freedom of expression. It’s a celebration of a people that have been oppressed for so long and they deserve to have their day in the sun like all of us do,” she said.
As it turns out, however, the law is on her HOA’s side.
It’s true that the First Amendment does guarantee your right to free speech, according to Parli, but it only applies to the government interfering in your free speech. Private entities, like an HOA, can. And they do, all the time.
When you sign a contract with an HOA, you are essentially abrogating your right to free expression to those areas laid out by the contract. If you violate the rules to which you consented with your signature on the contract, they can — and will — do whatever the contract allows them to do to remedy the situation.
“Constitutional protections need not apply, because the owners ‘agree’ to the terms of the restrictive covenants by the mere act of taking title to a home within the boundaries of the HOA,” writes Deborah Goonan.
And indeed, homeowners have found themselves at odds with their HOA’s over forms of expression that outsiders would consider mundane. For example, as Fox News reported weeks ago, a Texas man is battling his HOA over his right to display an American flag.
Most homeowners don’t fight their HOA’s because court costs can be prohibitive.
As for Chipman, she says she intends to try to get her HOA to see things her way so she can display her pride flag next year and in subsequent years.