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Mike Bloomberg skipped Iowa, is campaigning hard nationally, and wants LGBTQ support




(UPDATED 2/4): Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg says he intends to double his ad buys around the country and increase his paid staff to 2,000 after the chaos in the Iowa caucuses. Bloomberg is developing hard counter-programing against President Donald Trump through ads and appearances, such as those throughout California Monday as everyone else focused on Iowa, winning the endorsement of California State Treasurer Fiona Ma.)

The word got out early. President Donald Trump wanted Republicans to acquit him in his Senate impeachment trial before his big Super Bowl Sunday interview, certainly before Tuesday’s State of the Union address. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took an oath to fairly consider the articles of impeachment charging Trump with abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress, was forced to make a deal – for which he got defendant Trump’s permission, to set the assured acquittal for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Sunday shows were filled with Trump Senate backers who voted to block further witnesses such as former National Security advisor John Bolton from testifying and essentially embracing Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz’s argument that even if Trump withheld congressionally appropriated military aid for Ukraine in its battle against Russia until it announced investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, it wasn’t wrong. “If the president does something that he thinks will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz argued on the Senate floor.

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff clapped back at the insanity. “If you say you can’t hold a president accountable in an election year where they’re trying to cheat in that election, then you are giving them carte blanche,” Schiff said.

But the nation’s attention shifted quickly to the developing spat between Trump and fellow New Yorker, former three-time New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who entered the Democratic primary race too late to qualify for the first four contests.

The two billionaires spent $11 million on political Super Bowl ads. Bloomberg teed up the fight on Friday with an ad mocking Trump’s infamous cheating at golf (there’s already a whole book out about that.)

As mayor, Bloomberg hired Trump to build a golf course. “That’s true,” Bloomberg says in the ad. “But he was the only bidder and running a golf course is the only job I would hire him for.”

Trump countered by spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, golfing at his nearby golf course and shirking a visit with Venezuelan leader Juan Guaido to attend a Super Bowl Party with paying guests at his for-profit club in Palm Beach. That cost the taxpayers $3.4 million, according to a Huffington Post analysis, bringing “the taxpayer-funded total for his golfing hobby to $130.4 million.”

The only snippet released as a teaser to Trump’s petty 8-minute pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox friend Sean Hannity was his take on Bloomberg. He criticized the Democratic National Committee for its rule change enabling Bloomberg to participate in the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas then snarked on Bloomberg’s height (the former mayor is about 5-foot-8 inches tall.)

“He wants a box for the debates, why should he be entitled to that?” Trump said to Hannity. “Does that mean everyone else gets a box?”

Bloomberg’s campaign spokesperson Julie Wood responded: “The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan.”

Trump “lies about everything,” Bloomberg said at an East LA campaign stop Sunday  with supporter former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I stand twice as tall as he does on the stage — the stage that matters,” Bloomberg said. “I think Donald Trump knows that I can beat him, and that’s why he comes back with those kinds of comments.”

The stage that “matters” no doubt refers to Bloomberg’s real wealth as a billionaire, not just marketing pronouncements without evidence. Axios’ Jonathan Swan notes “the eye-popping FEC data about Mike Bloomberg’s Q4 spending, as well as Bloomberg already running a national campaign. “Iowa and New Hampshire have 65 delegates,” said Bloomberg’s national spokesperson Galia Slayen. “California, Michigan and Pennsylvania have 726.”

Bloomberg will be in the critical swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania Tuesday, the day Trump delivers his State of the Union before a House divided.

Swan reports that Trump takes Bloomberg more seriously than his campaign advisors. “A senior administration official, who told the president that Bloomberg has no hope of winning the Democratic nomination, said Trump replied: ‘You’re underestimating him,’” believing in the power of Bloomberg’s money.

“His outsized wealth and outsized ego are matched by his overwrought jealousy and spitefulness towards the president,” senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway told Swan.Jealousy is a dangerous motivator for people, leading them to confuse with a sugar high that money can buy with substance that voters demand to hear.”

“Mike got into this race with the singular goal of defeating Donald Trump and a strategy of contrasting his record of accomplishment with Trump’s lies and broken promises,” Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson retorted. “Clearly it’s working.”

Screengrab of MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow report on campaign ad spending

“Bloomberg’s fortune dwarfs Trump’s wealth and has played into a number of insecurities Trump has long held about the former mayor, according to two presidential confidants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations,” AP’s Jonathan Lemire reported Jan. 24. Not only is Bloomberg vastly richer than Trump, but he has also had an easy entry into the most elite Manhattan social circles, the same ones that looked down on Trump as a tabloid creation and reality TV star.”

Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump heard on Access Hollywood tape released Oct. 7, 2016. 

That contrast was supposed to play out in the head-to-head of expensive Super Bowl ads. Trump’s first 30 second ad featured Alice Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender championed by Kim Kardashian West, whose sentence was commuted by Trump  in 2018. The second 30 second ad featured images of rallies, military might and industrial workers touting his economy. “And ladies and gentleman, the best is yet to come,” Trump says.

Bloomberg’s one minute ad was narrated by Calandrian Simpson Kemp whose young football-loving son, George H. Kemp, was shot to death in Texas in 2013, highlighting Bloomberg’s long and strong support for gun control. “When I heard Mike was stepping into the ring, I thought, ‘Now we have a dog in the fight.’” Kemp says.

But the debate over who won the ad war died quickly with one tweet after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl on Sunday, beating the San Francisco 49ers 31–20. “You represented the Great State of Kansas, and, in fact, the entire USA, so very well,” Trump tweeted, suggesting another #SharpieGate by putting the Chiefs in Kansas City, not Missouri.

“It’s Missouri, you stone cold idiot,” tweeted former Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

But, sign of the times, attention shifted again Monday as Senators heard closing arguments in Trump’s impeachment trial and Democratic Iowans prepared for the arduous  caucuses, apparently tortured by indecision and concern that they may “F—It Up” and award the precious first-voting-state momentum to a candidate that can’t beat Trump.

“All that momentum that comes out of Iowa and New Hampshire, I think, still is so determinative,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a New York Times story about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ momentum in California. “Let me tell you, as someone who’s run multiple times statewide, there’s still no substitute for momentum, still no substitute for generating energy on the nightly news.”

And if Sanders wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, even if he doesn’t do well in South Carolina, he’s doing well in Nevada and extremely well in California. That momentum heading into Super Tuesday might make Bloomberg the most likely moderate candidate left to combat Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll shows Sanders leading by 26 percent of likely primary voters, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren second with 20 percent; former Vice President Joe Biden with15 percent; former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 7 percent and Bloomberg at 6 percent after blanketing the state with ads since he announced his candidacy  on Nov. 24, 2019.

Bloomberg – who has been a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent and now a Democrat again – spent more than $30 million in ads in December alone and is expected to spend $300 million on TV spots by March, in ads now running nationally targeting Trump rather than his Democratic primary rivals whom he says he will financially support if he’s not the nominee.

“If Donald Trump wins re-election, he will make extorting a foreign head of state for campaign purposes look like child’s play. Bloomberg said about impeachment on Dec. 18, 2019. “2020 is not just an election. It’s a referendum on whether to save our Constitution – or let Trump light it on fire. That’s why it’s so important we nominate the candidate who gives us the best chance to defeat Trump and bring our country back together.”

Those words echo House impeachment manager Schiff’s closing argument to Senate Republicans on Monday.

Bloomberg spent Monday in California, which has 20.3 million registered voters and just started its early vote-by-mail, as well as voting directly at county election offices.

Thanks to his ubiquitous ads, Bloomberg is now surging in some national polls. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Jan. 29-30 has him third behind Biden (23% of registered voters) and Sanders (18%). The survey “found that 12% of registered Democrats and independents said they would vote for Bloomberg in the state nominating contests,” up from 5% in a similar poll in of December. He’s third in the latest Hill-HarrisX poll, too.

He has a 7-point lead over Trump in Michigan and, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If you’re a Wisconsin voter, you can be excused if you think former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the only Democrat running for president. While the other contenders are slugging it out in four early states, the billionaire businessman is flooding the country with TV ads, including plenty in Wisconsin,” which holds its primary on April 7.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg is also racking up a slew of endorsements. In addition to Villaraigosa, whom Bloomberg helped with the former LA mayor’s charter schools initiative, he’s backed by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Like Warren who famously has “a plan for that,” Bloomberg also has a spate of plans targeting issues and demographics, including a plan on immigration, a Path Forward for Latinos and an economic justice plan for Black America.

Apparently, a number of black mayors have accepted his apology for his damaging “stop and frisk” policy as mayor. “I was wrong,” Bloomberg told the congregation at a black megachurch in Brooklyn last November. “And I am sorry.”

The latest endorsement comes from Washington DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser who stood next to Bloomberg at a news conference Thursday at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE and declared the former mayor “the only candidate who will unify the country and defeat Donald Trump.”

The choice of location for the news conference was to underscore Bloomberg’s plan for affordable housing and the homeless crisis.

“What’s most important to me is we have a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump,” Bowser said. “I think Mike has demonstrated the commitment to be in this race until the end and put the necessary resources in to get it done.”

Bowser joins Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin and former Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Mayor Michael Nutter, among others, in Bloomberg’s “Mayors for Mike” campaign.

Jeffrey Slavin, the gay mayor of the Montgomery County, Md., town of Somerset, was also in attendance and told the Washington Blade that “he is among a growing number of LGBTQ city and town officials from across the country that are supporting Bloomberg for president.”

Bloomberg, who two days earlier released his plan for LGBTQ+ Equality, touted his record of support for LGBT rights.

“Well just to address that one community, my recollection is…I went and got the Republican Senate of the State of New York, as well as the Democratic House, to pass a law permitting gay marriage in New York long before anybody else that I know who’s running for office ever even thought about it or certainly said anything about it,”Bloomberg told the Washington Blade’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. “My credentials among the LGBTQ- plus community, I think, are impeccable and would not be overstating it if you ask people from New York City.”

Bloomberg and his campaign reached out specifically to the LGBTQ community, pitching his platform to regional LGBTQ publications in a conference call on Jan. 28. His team also noted announced endorsements from former “Project Runway” judge Tim Gunn and designer and performer Isaac Mizrahi who joined Bloomberg’s National LGBTQ+ Leadership Council.

Gay City News’ Matt Tracy was not particularly impressed, noting that Bloomberg’s LGBTQ platform essentially matches his rivals.

Most importantly, he qualified Bloomberg’s record on marriage equality, which the gay newspaper closely covered over the years. “[Bloomberg] painted a rosy picture of what was a far more complicated record on marriage equality. While Bloomberg indeed endorsed marriage equality in 2005, he simultaneously appealed a state ruling that same year declaring that city clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Tracy wrote. “He later poured money into the fight in Albany, but despite his being the largest donor to the Republican Senate majority at the time, there is no indication he helped bring around the four GOP votes that won the day for marriage equality in 2011.”

However, he is still a hero to many same sex couples, such as Jonathan Mintz and John Feinblatt, whom Bloomberg mentioned on the call.

Kerry Eleveld, former White House reporter for The Advocate, summed up the different attitudes after Bloomberg left office. “Like so many things in life, where you stand on Bloomberg’s contribution to the LGBT movement depends on where you sit,” Kerry Eleveld wrote in The Advocate in 2013, as quoted in Trudy Ring’s Nov. 24, 2019 story on his presidential announcement. “Those who championed the 2011 marriage equality push consider him a hero for helping persuade state Senate Republicans to listen to their better angels. Those who work on issues of poverty and homelessness, which disproportionately affect LGBT youth, dismiss him as an impervious economic elitist who has largely turned a blind eye to New York’s record homeless population and an inadequate shelter system.”


Mike Bloomberg in the 2013 Pride Parade in New York (Photo courtesy of the City of New York) 

Bloomberg told LGBTQ reporters on the call that LGBTQ rights “really does mean a lot to me” so he wanted to speak directly rather than through a surrogate. Having the presidential candidate on the record expressing and detailing support for LGBTQ equality is even more important now as advocacy groups such as Equality Federation report 226 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in state legislatures.

He talked about convincing Republican state senators to vote for marriage equality in 2005 “and I asked them to listen to their families and especially their children. That’s what I did, and that turned enough votes to pass it. Marriage equality passed in New York State,” Bloomberg said.

Shortly thereafter, he sat down with John Feinblett, an advisor in the city hall, and said he’d be honored to officiate at his marriage to commissioner Jonathan Mintz. “We could do it on the very first day that marriage equality was legal,” Bloomberg said. “In the years after, I worked to spread marriage equality around the country,” by which he meant funding the winning marriage equality campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.

Bloomberg said:

“Those days were special because there were major victories, both political and personal, and in a fight that started for so many people in the village in Sheraton Square back in 1969. Now, we’ve come a long way since 1969 when Stonewall happened. Back then, New York and virtually every other state had laws on the books that made same-sex relationships a crime. Think about that. You could go to prison for years just for being intimate with a person you loved in the privacy of your own home. But for all the progress we have made on equality since then, we’re faced with new reminders of just how much farther we still have to go every single day.


“The fact is, a judge said to me recently, ‘You can be married on Sunday and fired Monday.’ In most states, there is no law that stops companies from firing people for their sexual orientation or renting a home to them, and many veterans are still not receiving their full military benefits because they were discharged before the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and as we have seen in far too many stories about transgender young people being denied access to medical treatment, harassed, beaten, and even killed for doing nothing more than living their full truth.


Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not eliminate racism, the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality did not eliminate bias and hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. The march for equality and justice has always been too slow, but I will say it has never stopped, and I think it’s up to the president to help pick up the pace.”

Bloomberg then referred to how Trump is trying to kick “the ball of progress” backwards. Bloomberg continued:

“He’s done that by appointing judges with anti-LGBTQ+ views and by not protecting and advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world. I can just tell you that I will do the opposite as president. I’ll work to protect every single member of the LGBTQ+ community from hatred and discrimination. I’ll work to pass the equality act to make sure that civil rights laws apply to sexual orientation and identity. I’ll take executive action to ensure equal benefits and protections under the law for federal employees, and I will not permit religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate against people. I will also close disparities in healthcare access and quality, and I will set a goal of ending HIV/AIDS by 2030. I think it’s an achievable goal, and while we will work to get there, we’ll strengthen treatment options and fight stigma.


We’ll also work to make schools and communities more inclusive and safer for LGBTQ+ students, restore the United States’ standing as a moral leader in the global fight for equal rights.


Let me just make one last point. On Sunday, I gave a speech about the rising tide of hatred in this country and how it has led to violent attacks on all marginalized groups. If we don’t confront this reality and do something about it, we risk allowing it to overwhelm us.


Our administration will put a stop to the rampant violence against transgender people and protect them from the bigots who seek to do them harm. For too long, we’ve turned a blind eye to the horrifying number of transgender people who have been attacked or killed in this country, especially young transgender women of color. We will make hate crimes a top federal priority and direct the FBI to take the lead on these investigations. We’ll end the LGBT+ panic defense, which has allowed far too many off the hook for unforgivable acts of murder, and we’ll reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act immediately, while also strengthening it to include more comprehensive protections for LGBTQ+ American.”

While his platform sounds similar to his Democratic rivals, this may be the first time Bloomberg, as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has gone so thoroughly on the record — for which he can be held accountable.

“This is a fight and a cause I care deeply about. These expanding freedoms and rights is what America is all about. It’s what makes our country the place where the world wants to live. I did it all when I was in New York City. You can look at the record,” Bloomberg said. “I’m going to be a president for all Americans, and you can be sure of that, all orientations and identities, all colors and creeds, and I’m going to bring our country back together and start repairing the damage that this president has done. Thank you so much for your time. I’m a believer, and I’m going to get it done.”

Many LGBTQ voters, like their Democratic counter-parts, want a myriad of priorities in their candidates. But for many others, the priority is to defeat Donald Trump.

Bay Area Reporter News Editor Cynthia Laird reported that Bloomberg toured the East Bay Jan. 17 with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, whose endorsement he did not secure, though “he did excite a small crowd that met at Everett & Jones Barbecue.” Among those impressed by the East Coast billionaire was Ken Richard, a gay man from Walnut Creek who told BAR: “The main reason why I support him is he’s the only one, in my opinion, who can defeat Trump.”

Longtime HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ politico Diane Abbitt, who read his plans, also endorsed on Jan. 28.

“I have decided to endorse Mike Bloomberg for President,” Abbitt, whose credentials include co-chair of MECLA, APLA and Equality California, told the Los Angeles Blade. “His positions and history of fighting for full equality for the LGBTQ+ community, his 100% support of a woman’s right to choose, his accomplishments in the areas of healthcare, homelessness and economic equality reflect my values.  His commitment to defeating Trump is self-evident by the fact that he is investing his own hard-earned money to fund his campaign. And defeating Trump is my top priority.”

First photo:Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action in Des Moines, Iowa (Photo by Gage Skidmore).


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Marking slavery’s end, a historic event now marks a Federal holiday

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free”



Major General Gordon Granger, USA (Matthew Brady Collection, Library of Congress)

GALVESTON, Tx. – In the early summer of 1865, on a clear crisp June morning, the lead elements of the Federal Army of blue-coated soldiers of the 13th Army Corps occupied the island city of Galveston, Texas on Monday the 19th.

Led by Union Army Major General Gordon Granger, who had recently taken command of the Department of Texas, the 13th Corps was tasked with enforcement of the emancipation of slaves in the former Confederate state.

The bloody civil war had ended officially with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee to Commander of Union forces, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865.

The warfare between the last elements of the Confederate and Union troops however, dragged on for another month or so culminating in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, which was fought on May 12 and 13, 1865. The fighting occurred on the banks of the Rio Grande east of Brownsville, Texas on the Texas-Mexico border some 400 miles Southwest of Galveston.

It took approximately another two weeks for Confederate Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner to surrender his command of the Trans-Mississippi Department (which included Texas) to Union Major General Peter J. Osterhaus on May 26, 1865.

General Granger was then tasked with implementing the order to free enslaved African Americans.

Once Granger’s Federals had taken control of the port city, he and his command staff headed to Union Army Headquarters located at the Osterman Building, once located Strand Street and 22nd Street.

Osterman Building – Left Foreground, Picturesque Galveston, 1900, Galveston Historical Foundation

It was there that General Order No. 3 was first publicly read out loud to a gathering of now newly freed Black Americans and other citizens of the city. 

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Sadly it would take nearly two years before all of the enslaved African Americans would actually be freed in Texas by white plantation owners and others who simply didn’t tell them or defied Federal authorities.

In 2014, the Texas Historical Commission placed a subject marker at the corner of  22nd and Strand, near the location of the Osterman Building, where General Granger and his men first read General Orders, No. 3.

State of Texas historic marker at the site of the first public reading of General Order 3. Photo courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission

While many Black Americans across the former Confederate States would celebrate their freedom granted by The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sep. 22, 1862 during the height of the war, in annual celebrations still others yet would annually mark the date of passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by Congress on January 31, 1865, which abolished slavery in the United States.

Yet on Galveston Island, the tradition of marking their first learning of The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Lincoln with General Granger’s General Orders, No. 3, was the benchmark for ongoing annual celebrations and as the years went by as the Black Americans from the Lone Star state migrated ever Northward, it would be that seminal moment that ultimately would lead to the creation of a federal holiday and recognition some 156 years later.

One observer also wryly pointed out that the June anniversary was seasonally tied to better weather than the other two dates and more conducive to celebrations and large gatherings, hence its popularity in being established as the federal holiday.

Information and photographs provided by the National Archives, the City Of Galveston, Galveston Historical Foundation, the Library of Congress, and State of Texas, Texas Historical Commission.

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50 years ago Atlanta’s nascent gay rights movement marched

“It was mostly about feeling good,” said Phil Lambert. “That we’re not a bunch of sick people. That we’re not the problem.”



Screenshot from Atlanta Journal-Constitution YouTube

ATLANTA, Ga. – This Sunday, exactly fifty years ago to the day on a bright Sunday morning, about a hundred brave gay and lesbian Atlantans from the Georgia Gay Liberation Front, unfurled a lavender colored banner made from a bedsheet with the intertwined symbols representing male + male, female + female with the a raised fist of defiance and the words ‘Gay Power’ emblazoned on it and they marched.

The group inched its way up Peachtree Street to a soundtrack of chants, kazoos and a tambourine.

Mindful that stepping off the sidewalks could get them arrested — the city of Atlanta had turned down their request for a permit and the police were closely watching for jay-walkers — the marchers stopped at every corner until they were given the crossing signal, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the average estimated crowds in attendance at Atlanta Pride is upwards of 300,000 plus. But at the time the Journal-Constitution noted, even in the city that had just birthed the civil rights movement and was home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., LGBTQ rights was considered a radical issue that the Georgian liberal political establishment, including many Atlanta progressives, wanted to stay away from. At that time, gay sex was still illegal under state law, and the American Psychiatric Association characterized homosexuality as a mental illness.

For those GAGLF Atlantans who participated in that first pride march on June 27, 1971, the event was a turning point, a moment when, for the first time, they could publicly celebrate a part of themselves that society had long demanded they keep hidden.

“It was mostly about feeling good,” said Phil Lambert, a Vietnam veteran who was in attendance. “That we’re not a bunch of sick people. That we’re not the problem.”

Read the entire fascinating story: 50 years ago, Atlanta’s gay rights push took to street for first time

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LGBTQ rainbow flag was born in San Francisco, but its history is disputed

On that day in June 1978, it felt as if the rainbow had always been a symbol for the LGBTQ community, it just hadn’t revealed itself yet



New York City Pride 2019 (Photo by Andrew Nasonov)

By August Bernadicou (with additional text and research by Chris Coats) | NEW YORK – Many enduring symbols that establish an instant understanding and define a diverse community are intrinsically linked with controversy, confusion, and ill-informed backstories dictated by vested interests and those who told the story loudest. The LGBTQ rainbow flag is no different.

While it was the work of many, the people who deserve credit the most have been minimized if not erased. Gilbert Baker, the self-titled “Creator,” screamed the story and now has a powerful estate behind his legacy. Before his death in 2017, Baker established himself as the complete authority on the LGBTQ rainbow flag. It was his story which he lived and became.

While there are disputed accounts on the flag’s origins, one thing that is not disputed is that the LGBTQ rainbow flag was born in San Francisco and made for the Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. 

For all of human history, rainbows have mystified and inspired. A greeting of light and serenity after the darkness and chaos of a storm. They have symbolized hope, peace, and the mysteries of existence. For a moment, we can see the invisible structure, the “body” of light, made visible. A secret revealed, then hidden again.

Though it may seem like a modern phenomenon, rainbow flags have waved throughout history.  Their origin can be traced to at least the 15th Century. The German theologian, Thomas Müntzer, used a rainbow flag for his reformist preachings. In the 18th Century, the English-American revolutionary and author, Thomas Paine, advocated adopting the rainbow flag as a universal symbol for identifying neutral ships at sea.

Rainbow flags were flown by Buddhists in Sri Lanka in the late 19th Century as a unifying emblem of their faith. They also represent the Peruvian city of Cusco, are flown by Indians on January 31st to commemorate the passing of the spiritual leader Meher Baba, and since 1961, have represented members of international peace movements. 

Now, the rainbow flag has become the symbol for the LGBTQ community, a community of different colors, backgrounds, and orientations united together, bringing light and joy to the world. A forever symbol of where they started, where they have come, and where they need to go. When many LGBTQ people see a rainbow flag flowing in the wind, they know they are safe and free. 

Modern version of the Rainbow Pride flag designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018 to include LGBTQ people of color and the Trans community. (Image graphic via Them magazine.)

While the upper class and tech interests rule the city now, in the 1960s and 70s, San Francisco was a wonderland for low and no-income artists. The counterculture’s mecca. By the mid-1970s, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood that had once been a psychedelic playground of hippie art, culture, and music had fallen into disarray. Hard, dangerous drugs like heroin had replaced mind-expanding psychedelics. Young queers and artists needed a new home, and they found it in the Castro.

Lee Mentley (1948-2020) arrived in San Francisco in 1972 and quickly fell in with the oddball artist and performers in the Castro neighborhood, donning flamboyant, gender-fucked clothes, performing avant-garde theater, and creating their own clubhouses. He was on the Pride Planning Committee in 1978 and ran the Top Floor Gallery on the top floor of 330 Grove, which served as an early Gay Center in San Francisco. 

Lynn Segerblom (Faerie Argyle Rainbow) was originally from the North Shore of Hawaii and moved to San Francisco where she attended art school at the Academy of Art. Her life changed when she found a new passion in tie-dye and rainbows in the early 1970s. Entrenched in the free-loving technicolor world of San Francisco, in 1976, Lynn legally changed her name to Faerie Argyle Rainbow. She joined the Angels of Light, a “free” performance art troupe where the members had to return to an alternative, hippie lifestyle and deny credit for their work. 

Lynn Segerblom by James McNamara, 1978

Shortly after the original rainbow flags were flown for the last time, both Lynn and Lee moved out of San Francisco. Lee moved to Hawaii and Lynn moved to Japan. When they returned, they were shocked to see how their contribution to history was becoming a universal symbol. They remain passionate about defending their legacies and giving a voice to the mute.


LEE MENTLEY: “One day in 1978, Lynn came to 330 Grove with a couple of her friends, James McNamara and Robert Guttman, and said we should make rainbow flags for Gay Day to brighten up San Francisco City Hall and Civic Center because it’s all gray and cold in June. We thought that it sounded like a great idea.”

To get over the first hurdle, money, the young artists went to Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of San Francisco, California, for help. 

LEE: “There was no actual funding for it. We contacted Harvey Milk and another supervisor, and they asked the city if we could get a little funding. They found some leftover funds from the previous year’s hotel tax, and we got $1,000.” 

LYNN SEGERBLOM: “I remember having a meeting where I presented the idea of making rainbow flags. I had some sketches. At that meeting, there was just a handful of us there, and I remember, and even my friend assured me, that Gilbert Baker was not at that meeting. I don’t know where he was, I didn’t keep track of him, but he was not at the meeting where I suggested rainbow flags. We decided, yes, rainbow flags sounded great.”

The committee approved the rainbow imagery and made the decision to make two massive 40’ x 60’ foot rainbow flags to be flown at the Civic Center along with 18 smaller rainbow flags designed by different, local artists, to line the reflecting pool putting rainbows into the grey sky.

For the two large flags, one would be an eight-color rainbow starting with pink and including turquoise and indigo in place of blue, and the other a re-envisioning of the American flag with rainbow stripes which became known as Faerie’s flag.


Gilbert Baker’s name on his memoir, Rainbow Warrior, it says “CREATOR OF THE RAINBOW FLAG,” leaving little debate that Gilbert claimed full ownership for the concept and design of the legendary symbol. He never denied Lynn or James MacNamara’s involvement in the flags’ construction and speaks briefly and fondly of them and their talents in that same book. 

LEE: “We didn’t need one person saving our ass, and it certainly wouldn’t have been Gilbert Baker. He was no Betsy Ross. He was a very good promoter, and I give him all the credit in the world for making the rainbow flag go international. He did a great service, and he was a very talented, creative man, but he could never have done all of the work by himself; no one could have.

Lynn Segerblom with volunteers readying the flag by James McNamara, 1978

We never considered ownership. There was never this big ownership debate until Gilbert started it. Because AIDS hit us so fast after this, most of our leadership either went into HIV activism or died.”

LYNN: “The story is that a white gay man did all of this by himself, but, in fact, that is not true at all. He just promoted it. For that, though, he should be given great love.”


Making the two original rainbow flags was no easy feat. With a limited budget and limited resources, the group had to improvise and figure it out as they went along. While Lynn had dabbled in flags before, a project of this scope and importance was far beyond her comfort zone.

LEE: “The community donated the sewing machines we used. We asked people at the Center if anyone would like to volunteer. All sorts of people from all over the country helped us with the flags, over 100 people, which, to me, is an amazing story. That’s where it came from. It came from regular artists who wanted to have fun and make something pretty for gay people.”

LYNN: “The Rainbows Flags were hand-dyed cotton and eight colors. I made two different types. The one with just the stripes and then the American flag one, which I designed myself. There was a group of us that made them, James McNamara, Gilbert Baker, and myself. Originally they were my designs. I was a dyer by trade, and I had a dying studio at the Gay Community Center at 330 Grove Street.”

LEE: “People would come and help as long as they could. Then, somebody else would come and help as long as they could. We opened up the second floor of 330 Grove to people who came to be in the Parade and march. People came in and made posters, banners and did art stuff.”

LYNN: “We made the flags on the roof because there was a drain up there. There was a wooden ladder that led up to the roof. The hot water had to be carried up to the roof because we didn’t have hot water up there. We heated it up on the stove in pots. We put the hot water in trash cans on the roof.”

LEE: “We had trash cans and two by fours, and we had to keep agitating the fabrics in the dye. Since they were in hot water, they had to be poked and agitated for hours.”  

LYNN: “We had to constantly move the fabric in the dye, so the dye penetrated the fibers that weren’t clamped tight. We had to make sure there would be blue, and it wouldn’t just be white on white or white with a very murky, pale blue.

After they were washed and dyed, they went through the washer and dryer. Then, we ironed them. If the fabric stays out too long, once you take it out of the water, if it sits on itself even for just a few minutes, it starts to make shapes.”


LEE: “Lynn’s flag, the new American flag, was a similar rainbow, but it had stars in the corner. I have photographs of that flag flying at gay events in San Francisco at City Hall and Oakland.” 

LYNN: “I always liked the American flag. I thought, oh, wouldn’t that be nice? I knew with some luck I could make it.” 

James McNamara, Lynn Segerblom, Faerie Rainbow Argyle, Lee Mentley, Gay Pride 1978, Orignal Rainbow Flag, Gilbert Baker, LGBTQ Flag, Gay Flag, Creator of the Gay Flag, 330 Grove,
Gilbert Baker, Lynn Segerblom, Robert Guttman and unknown by James McNamara, 1978

LEE: “I thought the one with the stars was more interesting because it symbolized a new flag for the United States.”

LYNN: “For my American flag, I decided to flip the order of the colors, so pink was at the bottom and purple was at the top in an eight-color spectrum. That was intentional. I wanted them to be different. 

​I made the stars with wood blocks and clamps. I got the white fabric and washed it, and folded it a different way. When I was making it, it looked like a big sandwich. The bread would be the woodblocks, and the fabric was in between. We immersed the whole flag in dye and swished it around. I wasn’t sure if it would come out right because it was the first time I did that fold. I was lucky. It worked.

I sewed lamé stars into one stripe with leftover stars from my Angels of Light costumes. On one side of the blue stripe, there was a star with silver lamé, and on the other side, there was a star with gold lamé. 

I got all these ideas because I worked with these mediums on a daily basis: paint, dye, fabric, and glitter.”

LEE: “We worked for weeks dying fabric, shrinking fabric, and sewing fabric.” 

LYNN: “We worked on them for seven weeks. I was worried that we weren’t going to finish on time. We worked hard and long hours. Towards the end, we decided we didn’t have time to go to the laundromat, so we started rinsing them on the roof and wringing them dry. We also ran out of quarters. We draped them off of the Top Floor Gallery’s rafters, and they drip-dried. They looked great. They were beautiful.”

Until that day, the pink triangle, used by the Nazis to label homosexuals in their genocidal campaign, was the most commonly used symbol for the LGBTQ movement, a symbol in solidarity with our fallen ancestors. But the triangle came from a place of trauma, it was a reminder of the storm while the rainbow was the hope that came after. The promise of brighter days ahead.

On that day in June 1978, it felt as if the rainbow had always been a symbol for the LGBTQ community, it just hadn’t revealed itself yet.

LEE: “We went out, flew the flags, and blew everybody’s fucking minds. People were blown away. The flags were so beautiful. They were waving warriors. The biggest ones were 40’ by 60’ feet. The Parade marched through the flags to get to Civic Center. We instantly proclaimed that this was our symbol. It wasn’t planned. It was organic.”

LYNN: “It was just what I wanted: a touch of magic, a touch of glitter, and a little bit of Angels of Light.”

LEE: “We weren’t creating this huge symbol. We were decorating Civic Center. We weren’t thinking of marketing our entire futures. It was an art project.”

LYNN: “We looked at the rainbow flags as a work of art, and we wanted them to be beautiful and unique. After the Gay Parade, the flags were a big hit. People loved them. Everybody loved them.”


In the pre-technology world, people and property could just disappear. There were no surveillance cameras.  Lynn didn’t even have a phone.

Even though no one could have known the flag would become an eternal symbol for a worldwide community, it was clear even then that they were a piece of history to be coveted.

In his memoir, Baker hypothesizes that the Rainbow American flag was stolen shortly after it was hung up on the front of the Gay Community Center for Gay Freedom Day in 1979. He suggests it might have been a construction crew working on the new symphony across the street and in a homophobic act, stole the flag and buried it in cement.

LEE: “Later in 1979 or 1980, you can find it somewhere in the minutes for a Pride Foundation meeting, Gilbert came to us and asked to borrow the two large flags, and we agreed. We never saw them again.”

LYNN: “I went to work one day at 330 Grove, and Gilbert came in and said that the two 40’ by 60’ flags had been stolen.” 

Images published in the San Francisco Chronicle, videos of the march, and other widely distributed photographs only add to the mystery. They show both the classic rainbow flag of eight stripes and the American revision flying at the Civic Center on June 24, 1979 and not at the Gay Community Center.

As for the original eight-stripe flag, there are even fewer answers. In his memoir, Baker says that while they were taking down the flags from Civic Center, he was hit on the head on knocked out. “When I came to on the muddy ground,” he says “I saw people all around me hitting each other and screaming obscenities. They were fighting over the rainbow flags, pulling on them like a game of tug-of-war, tearing them.” 

LYNN: “It would have taken more than one person to carry the flags. It took three people to carry one folded-up flag for the Parade, and we needed a van. They weighed a lot, and 330 Grove did not have an elevator. Whoever stole them had help—one person could not do it on their own.”


LYNN: “Before the rainbow flag missing, Gilbert came to one of my workshops. He wanted to watch me dying fabric all day and see how I did everything. 

I was like, oh yeah, I’ll show you, come in.

I said, here, put some gloves on and do it with me. 

He was like, oh, no, no, I don’t want to get my hands dirty.

​He was only trying to figure out how I did the dying.”


LEE: “Gilbert went to these places like MoMa and told them these outrageous stories about how he made the rainbow flag all by himself. He said this about the flag he donated. When you look at it, you can tell that it was bought at a craft fair. It flat out wasn’t one of our flags. It was polyester.”

​LYNN: “It was polyester, it wasn’t the same size, and it wasn’t hand-dyed. My flags were different. The rainbow flag at MoMa was a beautiful flag inside a frame, but it wasn’t an original, not from 1978, not even a piece from 1978. I was hoping, oh, my God, maybe this is a piece of it.”

LEE: “It wasn’t even the original colors. MoMa said they were original flags, but they weren’t. It was a commercially produced rainbow flag with a primary color rainbow. The plaque cited Gilbert donating it as an original flag.” 

Lee Mentley, Lynn Segerblom and Camille O’Grady, 2017


LYNN: “I read online that Gilbert Baker said he named me “Faerie Argyle Rainbow,” a complete lie. Bethany the Princess of Argyle named me. I chose the name Rainbow because I was known as a rainbow artist.”

​LEE: “Even Lynn’s driver’s license said her name was “Faerie Argyle Rainbow.””

LYNN: “In 1976, I filled out a form at the DMV, and my name became Faerie Argyle Rainbow. Back then, they didn’t ask you for a birth certificate. The employee just said, “This is your name now,” and gave me a driver’s license that said Faerie Argyle Rainbow. 

​It all sounds crazy now, but back then, it wasn’t.”


LEE: “I had my arguments and fights with Gilbert Baker because he claims he came up with the rainbow flag. If you go through all of his different interviews, you see that his story changes over and over and over again. He even said Harvey Milk came to him and asked him to create a symbol for the movement. No—I read that, and no such thing happened.” 

LYNN: “Just look at his interviews. His takes on what the colors in the rainbow flag mean are all in his head. The rainbow represents everyone, no matter what gender or race you are; that’s how I looked at it. Rainbows are in nature and beautiful. People love them, and I love them. I knew they would be great color healing.

Gilbert assigning meaning to each color is ridiculous. I think anyone could make up what each color means. If I wanted to, I could do the same. It wasn’t what I was thinking. I was thinking that rainbows encompass everybody, the whole group, unity.”

LEE: “I have tried to convince people that the rainbow flags were made with tax-payer dollars. We made them as a non-profit. 

Not even Gilbert owns them. I have always thought that anyone who sells anything rainbow should give a portion of the profits to homeless gay youth. We need to take care of our own kind because no one does. The whole concept of taking care of gay people has disappeared.” 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Chris-Coats-600x600.jpg

August Bernadicou is a 27-year-old gay historian and the President of the LGBTQ History Project Inc. Chris Coats is an editor and producer.

Together, they produce the QueerCore Podcast and will shortly be releasing an episode that is the definitive story on the rainbow flag featuring Lee Mentley, Lynn Segerblom, and Adrian Brooks. 

August Bernadicou is presenting a Pride event in NYC this year that all folks are cordially invited to attend- its virtual;

Here is the link for the event:

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