It’s another LGBT first for Gavin Newsom. The California governor first came to LGBT attention in 2004 when he started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples as Mayor of San Francisco. At the time, Democrats held him at arms length, suggesting he was going too fast, too soon. But Newsom said he was willing to sacrifice his political career over the issue of marriage equality—that denying lesbians and gays that right “is wrong and inconsistent with the values this country holds dear,” as he told CNN at the time.
Newsom is Governor of California now and he continues to integrate LGBT people into society, into his administration and recognize the importance of elevating historical LGBT moments. On Monday, Newsom ordered the Rainbow Flag flown over the State Capitol to commemorate June as LGBTQ Pride Month. The flag will fly on the main flagpole of the State Capitol building through July 1 for the first time in state history. Overseeing the raising of the flag was an honor guard from the California National Guard.
“In California, we celebrate and support our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community’s right to live out loud – during Pride month and every month,” Newsom said in a statement. “By flying the pride flag over the State Capitol, we send a clear message that California is welcoming and inclusive to all, regardless of how you identify or who you love.”
According to the Governor’s Press Office: “Today’s flag raising follows similar historical firsts in Colorado and Wisconsin and comes at a time when the federal government has told U.S. embassies they can’t fly pride flags.”
In a June 13 letter to Sec. of State Pompeo, 17 Democratic Senators have demanded to know why the change in US policy.
“Seeing the Pride flag prominently flown at the Capitol reminds people everywhere that while some states and the federal government dehumanize LGBTQ people, California stands firmly for equality and inclusion,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. “It reminds LGBTQ Californians that our government is working to move our community forward.”
This is not the first time the Rainbow Flag has been displayed at the State Capitol, of course. The flag has been hung from balconies—including during the massive AB 101 protest in Sacrament after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the gay civil rights bill. And, similar to President Obama ordering the White House to be illuminated after the June 2015 marriage equality victory at the Supreme Court, the Capitol dome was also lit up in rainbow colors. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris had refused to defend anti-gay Prop 8 in court, saying it was unconstitutional, so the SCOTUS victory was sweet for Californians, too.
But this is the first time the Rainbow Flag has flown from the official state flagpole. It is also a nod to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, credited with lighting the torch for the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
“Raising the Pride flag at the California State Capitol is symbolic of more than Pride Month. This is about respecting and honoring the humanity of all people,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria, Vice Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, who is also a candidate for San Diego mayor. “At a time when the Trump Administration is forbidding U.S. embassies and consulates around the world from raising pride flags, we are sending the message that we acknowledge and respect LGBTQ people, and they have a home here in California. I am proud Governor Newsom is continuing to keep California as a rainbow beacon of hope for the rest of the nation.”
“Flying the Pride flag over the Capitol is a powerful symbol of California’s leadership on LGBTQ civil rights and social justice – a literal beacon of hope to LGBTQ people throughout the state and across the country,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said. “Once again, Governor Newsom is demonstrating his commitment to building a California for all. We’re deeply grateful to him and to the First Partner for being such dedicated allies to our LGBTQ community.”
Gov. Newsom and some of his LGBT staff will be featured in the June 28 issue of the Los Angeles Blade, marking the arc of LGBT California history from the Black Cat rebellion to working at the seat of power in Sacramento.
(Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)