LGBT community celebrates victory in Norfolk

Jordan Crawford | 8/15/2013, 10:10 a.m.
Hampton Roads Pride presented a flag-raising ceremony of the LGBT Pride Flag at Town Point Park in Norfolk last Friday.

It has been an exciting year for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and its supporters in the advancement of LGBT rights.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings on two cases on same-sex marriage. It ruled the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. The High Court also decided supporters of California's Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriages in that state did not have standing to bring the case to the court.

There have been global breakthroughs as well, including Queen Elizabeth II's signing of a same-sex marriage rights law in England and Wales. The new law makes England the 16th country to enact marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Uruguay and New Zealand have also just been added to the list of world nations now recognizing marriage rights for LGBT couples.

Hampton Roads Pride presented a flag-raising ceremony of the LGBT Pride Flag at Town Point Park in Norfolk last Friday.

“This not only is a symbol for gay pride, but is also a symbol of acceptance,” said Rakim Simon, who attended the flag-raising ceremony and PrideFest. “Seeing all these gay pride flags displayed out in the open like this means that Virginia really is for lovers, all lovers.”

The LGBT Pride Flag, or Rainbow Flag, is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers and is the most visible and recognized symbol of “gay pride” today. It has also been one of the world’s most iconic symbols throughout the past 35 years.

Gilbert Baker, who taught himself to sew after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, first designed the colorful emblem.

Baker was stationed in San Francisco for most of his military career and was there during the gay liberation movement. He often utilized his sewing skills by making banners for gay and anti-war street protest marches.

In June 1978, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco politician and good friend of Baker’s, asked Baker to make a logo for the upcoming Gay Freedom Day Parade.

“I turned that into the idea of a flag,” Baker said. “So while I loved Harvey, he was a great inspiration and teacher, the flag was not his idea. He, like everyone else that saw it first on June 25, 1978, instantly recognized the value and importance of having a flag and using it as a visibility tool and power channel and from that day on it has exploded.”

The current “six-striped” Rainbow Flag’s colors traditionally stand for: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony, and purple for spirit.

Milk rode triumphantly under the first Rainbow Flags that Baker made. Baker credits Milk for inspiring his work with the message of hope.

Baker said, "Our movement is built on the shoulders of individuals who stand for freedom and equality. One at time, in every town, in every country, people who live openly, truthfully. Each one of us is a drop of water in a wave of change for human rights and justice. Indeed we are a rainbow of hope, love, and liberation that wraps around the Earth."

For 25 years, PrideFest has brought together the LGBT community and its allies to socialize, support one another, share ideas, and organize in a visible and positive environment. It also serves to educate the public about LGBT issues, raise funds for its causes, and build trust and bonds with its supporters.

In the past 13 years, Hampton Roads Pride has issued more than $52,000 in scholarships to members of the community.

Hampton Roads Pride is a non-profit organization that functions to empower all LGBT and allied people by instilling pride, celebrating unity, and embracing diversity in the Hampton Roads LGBT community and its allies. Their goal is to create visibility and promote full human and civil rights through education, celebrations and networking.