Pride flag raisings continue to show solidarity with LGBTQ community

Editor’s Note: This article was written for Mosaic, an independent journalism training program for high school students who report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.

The eighth annual Pride flag raising at Santa Clara City Hall took place June 7, one of several similar events in Santa Clara County to start Pride month, solidifying the city’s solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

“Pride month is a time to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ community and advocacy for diversity, equity, inclusiveness and the acceptance of all,” Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said.

Over the past couple of decades, Pride flag raisings have become more common around the nation. Speakers at the event expressed how the gesture continues to hold a deep meaning for them.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, second from left, watches as BAYMEC Community Foundation Executive Director Ken Yeager and Gabrielle Antolovich, president of the Billy DeFrank Center board, raise the Pride flag on Friday, June 7, 2024, at Santa Clara City Hall. (Karissa Garcia/Mosaic) 

Ken Yeager, executive director of the community foundation of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, who was the first openly gay elected official in Santa Clara County, said the flag-raising shows how the county and city governments welcome everyone.

“The flag has really transformed from just being about the LGBTQ community,” said Yeager, who served on the San Jose City Council and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “It’s about all communities, accepting everyone, no matter how marginalized.”

Santa Clara Vice Mayor Anthony Becker shared his experience as both a Christian and a gay person and the struggle that comes with being part of two communities that are sometimes in opposition to each other.

“I’m not fully accepted as a Christian because I’m a gay man, and I’m not fully accepted in the gay community because I’m Christian,” Becker said.

The Santa Clara Parks & Recreation department sponsored a Pride merchandise booth at Santa Clara City Hall during a flag raising ceremony on June 7, 2024. (Karissa Garcia/Mosaic) 

Other attendees included Assemblymember Evan Low, who was Cambpell’s first openly gay mayor and is now running for a seat in Congress; Sera Fernando, manager of the Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs;  and Gabrielle Antolovich, president of the board of directors for the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center in San Jose.

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Pride Month occurs in June in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. After police raided the gay bar and harassed its patrons as they were being arrested in public, Stonewall customers and neighborhood residents marched for five days in protest. The first Pride parade took place on the first anniversary of the riots.

LGBTQ rights have come a long way since then, and the Pride flag has evolved with it into the Progress Pride flag, designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018, adding new stripes in support of marginalized people of color and trans individuals.

“When I see the Pride flag, I see hope,” Fernando said. “I see it as a beacon of safety. And to even just have it once a year, I know that when I see this flag raised, it’s just a wonderful sight to see; that I’m safe and I’m affirmed.”

Jake Ryan Navarro is a member of the class of 2027 at Silver Creek High School in San Jose.

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