Forty years of the rainbow flag: The push for LGBT equality continues

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty
Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty

Next weekend is Pride: one of the biggest in the city’s calendar as we come together to celebrate our LGBT community. As we did for Trans Pride last weekend, Greens will once again march with all those who stand up for equality and liberation.

This year is also the 40th anniversary of the rainbow flag designed by artist Gilbert Baker. Rooted in activism, this celebrated symbol was first flown at San Francisco’s Pride march in 1978.

Pride sees the city decorated in rainbow flags yet despite progress, we know that there is still much work to do. One in four LGBT people have experienced violent hate crime and homophobia is legitimised in government with the stridently homophobic DUP, who have blocked equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

The push for equality goes on beyond Pride weekend. The Home Office continues its policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants which has in turn grown LGBT prejudice.

UK Government figures from November revealed that thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans asylum seekers have been refused entry into the UK from countries where they face prison, violence and even death. People whose claims are rejected are also held in detention centres, places that charity Stonewall found were “little sanctuary from homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse.” In a country where homosexuality has notionally been ‘decriminalised’ we are still locking people up for being LGBT.

As the city becomes a show of colour and celebration we should take the time to remember that LGBT people at home and abroad still face bigotry and violence.

As we celebrate the progress made for LGBT equality, we are reminded by the rainbow flag in its 40th year that it is the dedication of campaigners and courage of communities, refusing to be silent, that has made progress on LGBT rights possible.

Greens will continue to campaign for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ policy of this Conservative Government that punishes those already vulnerable for who they love.

We will campaign until we have lasting equality both here and abroad. I wish everyone a safe, happy and sustainable Pride.

Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.