Across America, the conservative backlash escalates. Now they are systematically forcing towns and school districts to ban the Rainbow Flag, our global symbol of LGBTQ+ liberation and diversity. Since last summer, they’ve already claimed anti-queer victories in more than twenty towns and school districts across America by successfully prohibiting display of the Rainbow Flag on public property. This is censorship. This is homophobia.

Their far-reaching agenda is clear: Erase pro-LGBTQ+ flags and force LGBTQ+ people back into the closet. Their argument: If the Rainbow Flag flies, why not fly politically divisive symbols of hate like the Confederate or Nazi flags? This twisted reasoning is gaining traction in our country at a time when scare tactics and misinformation are doing irreversible damage.

Bans can kill. Banning the Rainbow Flag tells LGBTQ+ people that their lives are worthless. And as studies have revealed, this can lead to depression and suicide attempts, especially for teens and young adults, as well as a spike in anti-LGBTQ+ violence. Rainbow Flag censorship lays the groundwork for an aggressive rollback of basic civil rights for all LGBTQ+ people in this country.

The number of flag bans is increasing, with Huntington Beach, Calif., joining this chorus of aggression in early February. Combined with Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, the banning of LGBTQ+ books, and huge wave of anti-trans bills, the trend is clear: The LGBTQ+ community has a target on its back and the crisis is getting worse. They simply want to wipe out sexual and gender minorities everywhere.

Why do people focus on trashing the Rainbow Flag? Because since its creation in 1978 by artist and activist Gilbert Baker, the flag has become a globally recognized symbol of LGBTQ+ freedom and pride. Radical right-wingers know that the Rainbow Flag offers our community a message of hope, inclusion and safe sanctuary. And they want to destroy it.

We can’t let the bullies win. Together we have to push back. The Gilbert Baker Foundation is leading the battle to keep the Rainbow Flag flying. We‘ve partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading First Amendment rights organization, to create an initiative: Save The Rainbow Flag.  

 We are your main allies in preventing Rainbow Flag bans at the local level. Here is how:

The Save the Rainbow Flag toolkit includes an ACLU letter that offers a legal roadmap for any local school board or town council under attack for supporting the Rainbow Flag. We will help you lobby school or community boards to do the right thing and send the haters packing. Only by working with likeminded people will we win.

Fighting back against bullies is an American value that works. We are already seeing reversals of flag bans in places like Newberg, Ore., and Connetquot, N.Y. But what is urgently needed is wide community response to keep the Rainbow Flag flying — before more towns and cities fall under this wave of hate.

As we head toward the 2024 election cycle, there is no question about it: this politically motivated war on LGBTQ people is gaining power. As recently as January, federal legislation to ban flying the flag was submitted to Congress by 30 sponsors.

We must stop their destructive agenda. Visit Save The Rainbow Flag and join our fight for LGBTQ+ freedom.  Together, let’s keep the Rainbow Flag flying freely.

Charles Beal, a veteran activist, is president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation.

The Gilbert Baker Foundation honors the legacy of artist and activist Gilbert Baker (1951-2017), creator of the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Flag, through ongoing educational and cultural initiatives. 

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