A Lifeguard in L.A. Is Now Suing the County for Religious Discrimination After He Took Down a Pride Flag

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 29, 2024

A longtime lifeguard living in Los Angeles County has landed himself in hot water. The legal battle began when the lifeguard stationed in the Pacific Palisades said he was forced to work near a stretch of beachgoers hanging a pride flag last summer.

The beachgoers, who were reportedly celebrating Pride Month, complained when the lifeguard took down three large rainbow flags. Now, the lifeguard is suing Los Angeles County, citing religious discrimination.

Los Angeles Now at the Center of the Nation’s Culture Wars

Jeffrey Little officially filed the lawsuit on May 24th, a week before Pride Month commences. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County, highlights the culture war that is currently burning in the country.

A busy street in Los Angeles filled with cars, palm trees, buildings, and neon signs

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Many people, including Christian churches and individuals, hope that they do not have to associate with LGBTQ+ in their personal and professional lives.

Who Is the Lifeguard?

Jeffrey Little, the lifeguard in the middle of the fiasco, is a devout evangelical Christian and has worked for Los Angeles County for more than 22 years. He is currently represented by attorneys at the Thomas More Society.

A tall red lifeguard chair and a yellow surf board in front of a large body of water with trees in the background

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The Thomas More Society is well-known as a conservative Catholic legal firm who have challenged abortion rights, the 2020 election results, and same-sex marriage.

Los Angeles Officials Seem To Be Siding With LGBTQ+ Groups

Public officials in L.A. are showing support for the LGBTQ+ groups in the city by raising a Pride flag at government buildings for the month of June.

A hand waves a large rainbow flag in front of a large building and a blue sky

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Just last year, county officials on the board of supervisors voted to require government buildings to fly the Progress Pride flag for the month.

Beaches Where Little Worked Required the Pride Flag To Be Raised

One of the official places that required the Progress Pride flag to be raised. Little was employed as a full-time life guard at Will Rogers Beach.

A small Pride flag wavs in the wind in front of large palm trees

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The beach in question is a historically LGBTQ+-friendly section known as Ginger Rogers Beach, which has been host to many Pride celebrations over the years. Santa Monica, the city where the beach is located, is also a very Pride-friendly place.

Little Has a History of Issues With the Flag

A spokesperson was reached for comment on the issue. The L.A. County Fire Department that oversees the lifeguards in the area did want want to speculate on the issue.

A wide view of a beach filled with people and umbrellas with the houses and mountains in the background

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However, a captain at one of the lifeguard divisions told their superiors in June that he wanted to be exempt from the county policy that ordered the Pride flag to be flown.


What Is the Pride Progress Flag?

The Pride Progress flag is slightly different from the regular rainbow flag. It includes extra stripes going in different directions to signify support for transgender and nonbinary people.

A flag with red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, light blue, red, and black stripes

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Many non-LGBTQ+ members have taken issue with this version of the flag. However supportive or tolerant of gay people, many members of the public are still unsure of where they land on transgendered people or anyone who wishes to express their gender alternatively.


Traditional Christian Beliefs Still Reject Gay Pride

When Little first brought the issue to his commanding officers with the lifeguard division, he stated that he adheres to “traditional Christian beliefs regarding the moral illicitness of same-sex activity, the immutability of sex regardless of gender identity, and the view that all people are children of God regardless of their skin color.”

An upward view of the exterior of a small church with ornate windows and a large cross on the top of the building

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The lawsuit alleges that “The views commonly associated with the Progress Pride flag on marriage, sex, and family are in direct conflict with Captain Little’s bona fide and sincerely held religious beliefs on the same subjects.” The complaint does not state if any of Little’s superiors or coworkers said anything disparaging about his religion. Rather, he feels as though his religious beliefs have been disrespected by the inclusion of the Pride flag at his workplace. 


Religious Accommodation Was Originally Granted

Last year, when the ordinance was first introduced, many beaches failed to fly the flag because they did not have the proper flagpoles.

A beach with a wide expanse of sand and a life guard tower overlooking the water

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According to the lawsuit filed by Little, his religious accommodations were originally granted, and he was allowed to change his shifts so that he could work at a beach without the flag.


Details of the Incident in Question

The incident occurred on June 21 last year. Little arrived for his shift at Dockweiler Beach to find that a Pride flag had been hoisted at three nearby facilities. Per his agreement with his superiors, there were meant to be no Pride flags on display where he was stationed.

A large Pride flag on a pole waving in the wind beneath a blue sky

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When he questioned his superiors and coworkers about the flags, he was informed that his chief had dropped them off and ordered that they be flown. Little now alleges that this act was a form of religious discrimination.


Little Then Filed His Official Complaint

On the complaint that he filed on June 22, he stated that he took the flags down in protest. His suit claims that, “I was confused [as] to why they were flying as I was under the impression that I would not have to deal with working in these conditions.”

Homes right off the beach seen in Newport Beach, California in the daytime.

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Although he attempted to keep the flags down, his commanding chief, Fernando Boiteux, hand-delivered an order that Little ensured that the Pride flag would flow throughout June at his designated beaches.


Disciplinary Action Taken Against the Complaint

Little was suspended the next day so that the lifeguard division could pursue a formal investigation against him for the incident that occurred on June 21. 

The bottom of a red life guard hut on a sandy beach

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Although he has asked for the same accommodations this year, Little claims that his superiors have made no effort to work with his accommodations. He hopes that his lawsuit will make waves in the department and get him the justice he feels that he deserves.