By John Larson
The City of Tacoma kicked off pride festivities in grand style on July 9 when the rainbow flag, an internationally recognized symbol of LGBT pride, was raised on top of the Tacoma Dome. While the flag has been flown over city hall in July for the past several years, this marks the first time it has been flown over the Dome.
“Symbols have always been profoundly important to our country and the pride flag is the LGBTQA community’s symbol of inclusion and celebration,” said Councilmember Ryan Mello. “In commemoration of the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the City of Tacoma is proud to publicly demonstrate its unwavering support and deep respect for the LGBTQA community.”
Mello scaled the Tacoma Dome to raise the flag, alongside Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan, State Representative Laurie Jinkins and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. Manny Santiago, executive director of the Rainbow Center, delivered remarks.
Mello expressed much gratitude for the Puyallup Tribe and their dedication to making sure that Tacoma’s Pride celebrations are the best that they can be.
“The Puyallup Tribe of Indians has once again demonstrated why they are called the ‘generous and welcoming people,’” he told the Tacoma Weekly. “Their generous title sponsorship of the 10-day Tacoma Pride Festival is incredible and provides the necessary financial resources to offer quality programming during July that educate, celebrate and advocate for the human spirit and lift up the voices and lives of our LGBT community.
“I am grateful not only for the Puyallup Tribe’s financial generosity, but also for their many substantive actions to ensure inclusion for all of their members and others in the South Sound.”
That evening, the mayor issued a proclamation declaring July as LGBTQ Pride Month. Santiago and other organizers of pride festivities gathered at the podium to hear Woodards’ comments.
Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman David Bean gave a short speech. This year the tribe is the title sponsor of the Tacoma Pride Festival, a program of the Tacoma Rainbow Center. “It really warmed my heart to see the flag raised,” he remarked. He said the tribe is proud to be inclusive. He invited the community to the tribal administration building on July 14, where the pride flag will be raised at 1 p.m., with other activities going on until 5 p.m.
Jinkins discussed an action taken by Tacoma City Council 30 years ago to protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination. In Tacoma, residents have the power of referendum, which means if they can gather enough signatures, the council action can be put up to a public vote. That year, a majority of voters came out in opposition to the measure. When the council took similar action in 2002, it was also challenged by the referendum process, but a majority of voters favored the action taken by the council. “I am so proud to have chosen Tacoma as my hometown.”
“This city recognized the value of all who live here,” Woodards remarked. She said climbing the Dome reminded her of how different we all are, but also how much we have in common. “We were taking steps together, in different ways and for different reasons.”
Mello noted that he is the first openly gay person to serve on Tacoma City Council. He said this time of the year allows the public to see that gay people know how to throw good parties, but he noted the efforts being made to address serious issues, such as homeless gay youth.
Among the Tacoma Pride festivities is the LGBTQA Community Awards at the Pantages Theatre on July 12. The Sapphire Award will be presented to Emma Nasworthy. The Ruby Award will go to Angie Hambrick. Comprehensive Life Resources won the Emerald Award. Senator Emily Randall will receive the Pearl Award, while Patricia McIntyre will take home the Diamond Hall of Fame Award. After the ceremony, the pride flag will be raised over city hall. For more information, visit www.tacomapride.org.