A rainbow Pride flag will fly above the Wisconsin State Capitol for the rest of the month of June in recognition of LGBTQ Pride Month, following an executive order from Gov. Tony Evers (D).
On Thursday, Evers announced that the Pride flag would fly over the east wing of the State Capitol building beginning at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 5, and ending at sunset on Tuesday, June 30.
“Wisconsin is a proud state that recognizes that diversity makes our communities and our state stronger,” Evers said in a statement. “I’m proud to once again celebrate the diversity and resiliency of the LGBTQ community this Pride Month and to share this symbol of our commitment to continue to do the work needed to create a more equitable, just, and inclusive state for all.”
Last year, which marked Evers’ first summer in office, was the first time in state history that the Pride flag flew over the State Capitol, reports FOX affiliate WLUK.
Notably, Evers stressed that the Pride flag would not disrupt other flags that fly over the Capitol building. The U.S. flag and the Wisconsin state flag will continue flying on the East wing flagpole above the rainbow Pride flag, and the POW-MIA flag will continue flying on the North wing flagpole, as it does every day.
Evers’ clarification seeks to avoid controversy ignited by the flying of the Pride flag in other jurisdictions, such as in Montgomery County, Md., last year, when right-wing websites exploited anger over the county’s decision to fly the Pride flag in place of the POW-MIA flag because the flagpole didn’t have enough ringlets to support flying more than one flag at a time.
Even though the issue was resolved and both the POW-MIA and Pride flags were flown simultaneously moving forward, conservative media reported on the first day’s events without reporting the “fix” that occurred on the second day. That resulted in a slew of hateful messages being left on county officials’ voicemail, and also distracted from the debate over recognizing Pride month by turning the conversation into an unrelated debate about claims by conservative politicians that their liberal counterparts do not respect military veterans.
By acknowledging the decision to continue flying the POW-MIA flag, Evers is hoping to dispel some misinformation that will no doubt be exploited or misrepresented on social media by some online provocateurs, regardless of the facts.
On Friday, in his official executive order calling for the flag to be flown, Evers said that the flag was “an important visual symbol of support for the LGBTQ community,” adding that there was much more to do to ensure “that every person in our state is treated with respect and experiences full equality in their lives.”
Currently, Wisconsin prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations, but does not have any protections for gender identity.
Evers’ executive order sparked criticism from Republicans — who control the state’s legislature — who argued that flying the Pride flag was divisive.
“Is this any more appropriate than erecting the Christian flag over the Capitol?,” State Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) tweeted.
“The U.S. and Wisconsin flags are flown over us as unifying symbols for all Wisconsinites,” State Sen. David Craig (R-Big Bend), tweeted. “The governor’s action today is in no doubt a statement to advance a cause. The only cause that the Capitol flags should represent is 50 states united in one republic.”
Nonetheless, on Friday, LGBTQ people who were part of a small crowd that gathered outside the Capitol said they were heartened by the show of support for the community.
“It just kind of means that we are finally represented by our government, they see us,” Clay Thomas, a Madison resident, told Wisconsin Public Radio. “We ride on the shoulders of giants here, with how the gay rights movement has progressed over the years. I think it would be really meaningful to the people who have given so much.”
“It’s just acceptance and inclusion, diversity,” Deb Dawson, another Madison resident who is the mother of an openly gay man, said. “We need that in our city.”
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