By Stewart Warren
victory for woman in flag case
Article Courtesy of The Herald News Online - Suburban
Posted April 16, 2003
JOLIET — Flags now can be displayed at
the Wesmere subdivision.
And Wesmere residents who want to
fly a military flag don't have to worry about nasty letters or fines from
the homeowners association.
Will County Judge James Garrison
ruled Tuesday in favor of Donna Guinta, the Wesmere resident who wanted
to fly the Air Force flag in front of her house.
Last year, the subdivision's homeowners
association threatened her with fines if she didn't take it down. Wesmere's
rules allow only the U.S. flag in front of a home. Guinta put up the flag
to honor her son, Jon Guinta, 20. He enlisted in the Air Force following
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Before taking the case to court,
Guinta gathered about 800 signatures on a petition supporting a change
in Wesmere's flag rules. The homeowners association refused to acknowledge
the petitions, she said.
Guinta is delighted by the decision.
"This is a real win for all of us,"
she said on Tuesday. "I feel like (the military) are out there (in Iraq)
risking their butts for us, and if we can't show support for them, this
In his decision, Garrison said the
association's flag rules were ambiguous. They allowed any type of flag,
banner or pennant to be flown in the back yard, but not the front. "It
has been said that the most serious disease of language is ambiguity,"
Garrison wrote in his decision. "If this is so, the Wesmere flagpole rule
is terminally ill."
The actual rule was about flagpoles,
not flags, he said. Because of the way the rule was written, different
flags could be displayed on the front of a house as long as they weren't
flying on flagpoles.
And the rule referred to the "American
flag" when the nation's flag is defined by law as the United States Flag
or the flag of the United States, Garrison said.
"The flagpole rule is unclear and
ambiguous and therefore not reasonable or enforceable as written and applied,"
Chicago lawyer Michael Stiegel represented
the association in the case. On Tuesday, Stiegel said he didn't know what
the association would do next. The group might file an appeal, or it might
rewrite the flag rules, he said. If the rule was changed, a large number
of the Wesmere residents first must approve the changes.
"I find it unfortunate that the
judge didn't believe the rule was clear enough to be enforced. Obviously,
we disagree with the judge's interpretation of the rule, and I don't think
there was any question as to what the rule was intended to mean," Stiegel
said. "And Mrs. Guinta (was) violating the rule."