City Hall Rainbow flag raising kicks off Boston Pride, Equality. No More. No Less.

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June 3, 2011
By Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter
Just as the ceremony was short, so the speakers’ remarks were brief.

By half past noon, to June’s breezes unfurled flew the Rainbow flag over City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston.
The music and lyrics of Kay Perry’s pop hit song “Firework” rang out as members of Boston’s Pride committee raised a huge six-color banner — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet — arguably the most visible symbol of the LGBT community worldwide.

The flag raising ceremony, a more than 15-year tradition, is the official kick off for a week chock full of events and activities for Boston Pride.

The theme of this year, the 41st annual celebration, is “Equality. No More. No less.”

“There’s no place else in the world I’d rather be today,” said state Rep. Liz Malia (Dem., Jamaica Plain) who joined several hundred people for the event on a bright and sunny but cool and breezy day, Friday, June 3.

“I’m always here for the flag raising,” said attorney John Affuso, who serves as one of this year’s parade marshals.

Affuso, a former lieutenant in the New Jersey Army National Guard, has advocated for 17 years repeal the military’s ban on openly gay service.

“We veterans made a simple promise,” he told the gathering. “We will not abandon you. We will not rest. We will not be silent. We will not quit until this shameful ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy’ is no more. We kept our promise.”

Affuso was referring to the historic vote last December by Congress to repeal the openly gay service ban. Full repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is expected to take effect this year after the four branches of the armed forces complete training; the president, Defense secretary and Joint Chief’s chairman certify troop readiness; and a sixty-day waiting period for congressional review has passed.

For Affuso, this year’s flag raising ceremony also holds “a lot of significance,” he said, “coming full circle back to City Hall” where years ago he served as liaison to gay community for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a long-time champion of the ceremonial event — and avid LGBT-rights supporter.

The mayor was not in attendance, but his Pride proclamation said this year’s theme “captures the spirit of Boston and its people by reflecting on what sets the city apart from others. It is the willingness of our people to accept and learn from one another.”

Boston is in fact the first municipality in the nation to allow the Rainbow flag to fly over a city hall, according to Linda De Marco, president of the board of directors for the Pride committee. “We paved the way for other cities,” she said. “Providence was next and finally New York City.”

This year’s celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Pride spans a ten-day period from Friday, June 3 through Sunday, June 14.

As Pride committee clerk Malcolm Carey detailed for the gathering, “From family-friendly Pride Day at Faneuil Hall this Saturday to the raging block parties next Sunday, from our King and Queen Pageant at Machine Nightclub on Monday to Pride Idol at Club Café on Wednesday, there is something for everyone and all ages,” he said.

And for the more serious minded, a new event, “Equality Lounge,” features a community panel discussion on the impact of assimilation into mainstream society.

Altogether, more than two-dozen events are scheduled. “The community has come out in strides,” said president De Marco, “in recognition of the progress we have made.”

The highlight of Boston Pride is of course the parade and festival, set for Saturday, June 11 — rain or shine — from noon to 6 pm.

Pride committee deputy director Keri Aulita said this year’s trek from the Back Bay through the South End to City Hall Plaza includes 176 contingents — a number up from a year ago.

Expect a more visible corporate presence in this year’s parade, too, she said, “They’re coming out big,” referring to AT&T, Frito Lay, Home Depot, Sun Financial, TD Bank North, and Macy’s, among others, companies with high profiles.

Fenway Health, celebrating its 40th birthday, also plans a presence, “a big float,” in the parade, said Chris Viveiros, associate director of communications. “There are a lot of ways to look at equality,” he said. “Equality in health care is something we have done a lot of work around.”

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