After several days of rain, a rainbow emerged in the Center City sky Wednesday, as Philadelphia celebrated its inaugural Rainbow Flag Raising Ceremony.
More than 400 people gathered outside City Hall for the ceremony, which marked the first time a rainbow flag was raised next to the country’s flag at any city municipal building.
City director of LGBT affairs Gloria Casarez said the flag-raising was meant as a way for the city to recognize its LGBT community during LGBT History Month.
“I had been thinking about a way that the city could acknowledge LGBT History Month for some time, and I read that a few other cities do these flag-raising ceremonies, although they’re usually around Pride month,” she said. “But I really liked the idea of doing something in October, especially because everyone’s pulled in a million different directions in June.”
Casarez said October also seemed like the most appropriate time to fly the flag because of what the city is hoping to accomplish with the effort.
“LGBT History Month actually traces its roots back to GLSEN [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network]. It was started by a teacher, and we’re really trying to put the emphasis on education here. That fits with the goals that we had for this.”
After remarks by Casarez and the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan of Metropolitan Community Church, the Philadelphia Voices of Pride performed at the ceremony. Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations executive director Rue Landau discussed the city’s pro-LGBT efforts before representatives from several LGBT events and initiatives this month — the LGBTQ Womyn of Color Conference, GLBT History Month Icons Project, the LGBT Elder Summit, OutFest and the LGBT History Month series — took the mic to talk about their efforts.
Mayor Nutter also addressed the crowd before the flag was raised to a musical backdrop of the national anthem, performed by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus.
Casarez said the ceremony — which she anticipates will become a yearly tradition — enables the city to take a more active role in the work the community does each year to celebrate its history.
“This is a way for the city to connect our efforts to things that are happening on a community level,” Casarez said. “We’re formally acknowledging, as part of our efforts in City Hall, the events and things that have been going on in our community during this month for years. We see this as annual event that will allow us to join with the community efforts that happen each and every year.”
The site of the flag raising is also noteworthy, Casarez said.
“City Hall is one of our most recognizable symbols in the entire city, so doing it at City Hall is incredibly significant. It’s important that folks realize that this really is a symbol and is about our actions and everything that we as a community do every single day.”
The flag will fly until the end of the month.