For the fifth year in a row, an LGBTQ Pride flag is flying above the Wisconsin State Capitol.
The flag was raised on the first day in June to mark the start of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which celebrates the history and accomplishments of LGBTQ+ Americans.
It is also a signal that “we will keep working to build a Wisconsin that is more welcoming, more inclusive and more just for everybody,” pledged Gov. Tony Evers, who became visibly emotional as he spoke about the flag’s symbolism at a ceremony outside the Capitol Thursday.
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“Raising the Pride flag today sends a message for all those who have only ever wanted to belong. Who’ve had to find their own family. Who have never known home,” Evers said, his voice breaking. “You belong here. You are family here. You are welcome here.”
Other speakers, including a public school counselor and a high school sophomore, echoed themes of celebration and challenges.
Sen. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, chairs the Legislature’s LGBTQ+ caucus. He said those lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to ban conversion therapy and discrimination based on gender identity, among other issues.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Bond, who became the first openly gay cabinet secretary in state history earlier this year, said the flag is a reminder that all are welcome in the Capitol.
“We each have to be true to ourselves, and, by doing so, create the community in which we wish to live,” he said.
Evers also nodded to challenges facing the queer community in Wisconsin and beyond, including hateful rhetoric and book bans that specifically target LGBTQ+ themes and history. He said raising the Pride flag was particularly important this year.
“Now I say all of (this) today not to damper the parade, but to explain why raising (the) Pride flag here at the state Capitol is so important to me as a governor,” he said. “It has been every year of course, but especially — especially — important today.”
The Pride flag will fly over the East Wing of the statehouse for the rest of the month, and other state buildings have been authorized to fly their own.
Many states mark June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, an homage to the Stonewall Uprising. Many credit that event, in June 1969, with launching the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
This year’s Pride Month comes as a major case is due before the U.S. Supreme Court that will weigh anti-discrimination laws against free speech protections, and as many state legislatures across the country have begun enacting laws that target gender-affirming health care for young people.
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