The announcement that the Seattle Space Needle would not fly the Pride flag this year raised an uproar in Seattle’s LGBTQ community last week with many people outraged and others simply bewildered by the decision. Spokeswoman Mary Bacarella released a statement last week noting, “We don’t make a habit of flying flags on top of the Space Needle and we make an effort not to fly any flags on a recurring basis.” A petition was started at Change.org asking that the management of the Needle change its mind, and to date, 9,689 have signed. Meanwhile, passionate conversations raged all over the city and at websites and media outlets, with reactions ranging from anger and cries of homophobia to more moderate responses that flying the Pride flag, or any flag that is not American, is not a right but a privilege and a sign of respect and not flying the flag is not necessarily disrespectful.
Sensing the unrest in the community, the management of the Space Needle has responded with a challenge to the community. In a press statement released Monday evening, the Space Needle agreed to fly the Pride flag on Pride Day, Sunday June 26 if the community raised $50,000 to be donated equally to four local charities: Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Scholarship Program, Lambda Legal, It Gets Better for the Trevor Project and Mary’s Place, a refuge for battered women and children. And, to kick off the fundraiser, the Space Needle donated the first $5000 to the drive. Donations can be made at the Space Needle Facebook page.
“We want to harness the enthusiasm that has built up to raise the flag for the encore performance. Our entire community gets involved in whatever issue is at hand and we think that is what makes us so strong. This challenge can reap great benefits for these worthwhile organizations.” – Jeff Wright, Chairman of Space Needle LLC
As per the previous announcement, the massive flag flown last year at the Space Needle will lead the 2011 Seattle Pride Parade, but now, if the challenge is met, the flag will be marched to Seattle Center and immediately raised at the Space Needle. And Jeff Wright also noted in the press release, “Raising the flag last year was a one-time occurrence, as almost all of them are. We strive to keep this very special and do it on a limited basis. It is important, however, that we rotate this rare opportunity through the many worthwhile charities in the coming years. We’re excited to see the response to this new community challenge and hope that it is very successful.”
Personally, I think this is a great idea. The community is motivated to work towards a goal that embraces all of us. LGBTQ people are fighting for EQUAL rights, not special rights denied to others. I don’t believe I’ve heard Irish Americans bitching because the Irish flag isn’t on the Space Needle for St. Patrick’s Day, or Italians whining “Where’s OUR flag?” for Columbus Day, or African-Americans pitching a fit because there’s no Black Pride Flag flapping up there for Black History Month. It was great the Pride Flag was on the Space Needle last year, empowering and exciting and, well, prideful. But, it doesn’t mean it needs to be up there EVERY year for us to feel like respected citizens. It’s the equivalent of someone complaining that they didn’t get a diamond ring for their 51st wedding anniversary, or a huge bonus every year at work. Fighting for marriage rights, or employment rights, or adoption rights is important because we’re fighting for the right to do the same things already guaranteed non-queer citizens. Whining because it looked like we weren’t going to have a Pride flag on a tourist monument isn’t fighting for equal rights…it’s whining because you didn’t get an extra cherry on your birthday sundae like you did last year. The Space Needle is going to give us our extra cherry…we just need to do a few chores first and help out some “kids” who don’t always get any cherries.
Go here to donate. We have eleven days to make this happen.