Over the weekend more than 3,000 people signed Josh Castle's petition on Change.org urging the Space Needle to fly the Pride flag once more.
Last year the Space Needle made international news when they flew the Pride flag for the first time ever. The message to the rest of the world was clear: Seattle is a welcoming city for all.
This year, the Space Needle informed the community that they will not be flying the Pride flag again, but instead they donated the Pride flag to SO&P to march with during the Seattle Pride parade. It was a generous donation, and one I'm sure SO&P was honored to to accept.
However, the Space Needle's well intentioned gift was not well received by the thousands of people who called upon the Space Needle to raise the flag. Why?
Pride is an annual recognition of the 1969 the Stonewall riots in New York City. New York police regularly raided establishments where gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transexual, people would hang out. They would arrest and humiliate them. Their photographs were printed in newspapers which killed careers, and ruined families. It was ugly, but there was nothing the community could do, because the law was against them.
One night, while the community mourned for one of their only public supporters Judy Garland, the police raided a bar called the Stonewall Inn. Police arrested and humiliated patrons who were simply minding their own business. The culmination of Judy Garland's death and years of physical oppression reached a tipping point. New York's community fought back.
Historians mark the Stonewall riots as the beginning of the modern LGBT civil rights movement, and Pride celebrations around the world continue to mark the occasion every year.
During the more than three decades since the Stonewall riots, LGBT people are in the midst of a civil rights struggle that continues to this day. We celebrate as we become more equal under the law. New York is poised to let gays and lesbians marry. Washington State is not far away.
We also mourn losses. In Tennessee this year, the legislature tried to pass the "Don't Say Gay Bill" which would make it illegal for teachers to mention gay people in school. When that failed, they passed a bill that made it illegal to protect LGBT people from discrimination at a local level.
It is still legal to be fired in more than 30 states if you are LGBT. People are being discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And people die every day in this country before they have the opportunity to marry the person they love.
So for us, the Pride flag is not just a brightly colored piece of fabric, it has deep history, and significant meaning. When the Space Needle chose to raise the flag last year, they made it unquestionably clear that they supported our community. It was overwhelmingly powerful for many of us. The comments on Josh's petition make that clear. People talk about how they cried when they saw it, how welcome they felt in their own city, how inspired they were to travel to Seattle.
People continue to tell these stories on the Facebook page for the Space Needle. Why? Because the decision not to fly the flag this year feels like a step-backwards. It salts the wounds that are so fresh from other defeats, like when California took away the rights of gays and lesbians to marry the person of their choice. Inadvertently, the Space Needle's decision is symbolic of all the losses we feel every day. From a child whose parents bully them to the point they choose homelessness over abuse. To the school denying a supportive club for LGBT people. To people dying before they are equal.
The Space Needle is an amazing institution that is supportive of our community. I see them using their influence for us in beautiful ways all the time. That's why this hurts so much, because as a friend, the Space Needle should understand why Josh Castle started his petition on Change.org. They should be on our side and raise the flag -- even if it is just one more time.