Aussie flag dispute keeps billy boiling
The homeowners group at Windermere crosses poles with a U.S. citizen of Australian origin who flies the Stars and Stripes, too.

Article Courtesy of St. Petersburg Times
Posted April 5, 2004 

INVERNESS - Windermere resident Louise Hogberg won't take down her red, white and blue flag.

"The whole point is, I shouldn't have to," she said.

It's Australian. It's not American - and that's the problem, according to the Windermere Garden Villas Home Owners Association.

In December 2003, amendments to the community's bylaws were approved, and among them was one stating that no flag - except for the American flag measuring 3 by 5 feet - can be displayed on the exterior or windows of a dwelling without the written consent of the association board.

After surveying the community, board president Gene Mason discovered that 61, including him, flew flags. All of them were American except for six, including Hogberg's Australian flag. Streamers with stars and stripes, a flag with an eagle and a Marine Corps flag were among them.

Born and raised in Australia, Hogberg moved to Windermere in 2001 before the flag rule was approved. She wrote a letter to the board earlier this year requesting permission to continue flying the Australian flag. In a March 15 letter to Mason, Hogberg described the request as a "polite formality."

But her request was denied. At its February meeting, which Mason did not attend, the board voted 5-1 to deny the request.

Hogberg didn't budge.

"This morning I observed that your Australian flag continues to be displayed in front of your home after eleven days notice," Mason wrote in a March 6 letter to the Hogbergs. "It would appear to be obvious that you have chosen to defy the Boards ruling in this regard."

In his letter, Mason suggested legal action at the Hogbergs' expense, and in closing, he wrote: "Again, PLEASE just remove the flag."

"I am being discriminated against for the first time in my life," Hogberg said in a recent interview.

Hogberg appealed the board's decision in her March 15 letter, and like Mason, also suggested legal action. During a meeting in the Windermere clubhouse at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the panel will consider Hogberg's flag again.

"We don't want this flag matter to blow up," Mason said in an interview Friday. "It's not that big of a deal. I hate to see it blown into that."

Hogberg said that the board approved another resident's request to fly a U.S. Marine Corps flag, and the decision was even announced in the community newsletter.

"Why not mine?" Hogberg said.

Both the Australian and American flags fly outside of Hogberg's home on Balmoral Court. The American flag is higher and on the left; the Australian hangs on the right side of the garage.

Hogberg came to the United States in the late 1950s and lived on naval bases with her former husband all over the country. She said she was always encouraged to fly the Australian flag.

About 1960, Hogberg was offered U.S. citizenship before traveling overseas, but she declined. She said she wasn't ready.

In the late 1960s, Hogberg made a decision that "was not easy, that was very difficult," and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. She was the first in her large Australian family to do it. She took a lot of flak.

Hogberg comes from a family of flag fliers. Her husband, Clarence Hogberg, served in World War II as a naval aviator. The father of her children was a Navy flight surgeon. Seven of her uncles fought in World War II beside American troops.

"We always fly the U.S. Flag, properly in its place of honor and the Australian flag to honor my heritage and family," Louise Hogberg wrote in her letter of appeal to Mason.

"I should point out . . . that Australia was a staunch ally of the USA in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars. Even as I write, Australians are serving and dying in Iraq alongside their American comrades."

Hogberg's next-door neighbor, Gregorio Rivera, has a flag up, too. It says "Proud to be an American" and has a big eagle in the center. He bought it in Tennessee at Dolly Parton's theme park.

Rivera said he has not heard from the board, but sided with Hogberg, calling the community's flag rule "unconstitutional."

"It doesn't have stars and stripes," Rivera said of his flag, "but it's American."

Please read our other articles by clicking here!