LGBT History Spotlight: Gilbert Baker & the Rainbow Flag
October 17, 2012 by Maureen McCarty, HRC Associate Director of Digital Media
Now a ubiquitous symbol for the LGBT movement, the rainbow flag was born out of a phone call between Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker.
Days before the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Pride, Harvey Milk approached Gilbert Baker to create a positive symbol to help unite the movement. Baker organized thirty volunteers to create the hand-dyed and stitched rainbow flag, which debuted on June 25, 1978.
“There's an old saying among flag makers: A true flag can never be designed, but is torn from the soul of a people,” Baker said to Metro Weekly in 2007.
To encapsulate Milk’s message of hope for the community, Baker assigned each of the eight colors a meaning: hot pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic or art, blue for serenity or harmony and violet for spirit.
Following the assassination of Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag skyrocketed in California.
In 1989 the flag gained nationwide attention when John Stout sued his landlord for prohibiting him from displaying the flag on his West Hollywood apartment balcony.
Though today’s variation is just six-striped, the flag remains a symbol of hope and unity for our community.
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