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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Our Rainbow Pride Flag

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

First raised over San Francisco’s UN Plaza on this date in 1978, Gilbert Baker’s vision of a new unifying emblem of the LGBT Community in 1978 has become a globally recognize symbol.  His rainbow flag was, is, and always will be a gift to the Community he loved and fought for tirelessly.  He never copyrighted, trademarked, or earned any royalties from his most visible creation.  It is quite simply, a gift from his heart to each of us.

“Flags are torn from the soul of the people.” — Gilbert Baker

An honorably discharged army veteran, Gilbert Baker became an activist and vexillographer designing flags and banners for various causes around the world including anti-Vietnam protests. If you’re thinking of showing your support, a large flagpole, or something similar is a great way to display the flag.

In the beginning… The first Pride Flag raised in San Francisco looked like this.

And there were originally eight stripes in the rainbow flag, each with their own symbolic meaning.

The fuchsia and teal stripes were removed from the design, because at that time material in those colors was too cost prohibitive to mass produce in a flag.  Thus the iconic six stripe flag was born.

To honor “Stonewall 25” in 1994, Baker created a 30′ wide, mile long Pride Flag carried by more than 5000 people up 1st Ave from 23rd St to 44th St, in front of the United Nations, setting a world record for the largest flag.

Commemorating the Pride flag’s 25th anniversary; he broke his own record in Key West with a Rainbow Flag stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in 2003.  Afterwards sections of it were sent to be flown over more than 100 cities around the world.  

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — A portion of 2,000 flag carriers reach the harbor as they dip one end of a 1 1/4-mile-long rainbow flag in the Gulf of Mexico. The flag required 17,600 linear yards of fabric, weighs more than 5,000 pounds (Photo by Andy Newman/

Gilbert Baker’s rainbow vision of inclusion and Community, has become a global symbol for the fight for LGBT civil rights and equality even in Russia where it has become illegal to display it.  But they do it anyway…

“Playbill,” is America’s oldest theatrical magazine, adopted a “rainbow cover” in print for all production and online during the month of June recognizing the contributions of the LGBT artists who collaborate to make live theatre and the ongoing struggle for equality. 

“Five years ago, Playbill made history with its first-ever commemorative Pride print issue-the first time in our 130-year history that we changed our classic yellow and black logo to reflect a cause.”

New York City’s Museum of Modern Art acquired Gilbert Baker’s Rainbow Flag for its permanent collection.  On June 26, 2015, the same day as the SCOTUS Marriage Equality Ruling came out, it went on display.  Read the account from MoMa HERE 

TheOUTfront proudly presents just few of our favorite Rainbow Flag inspired works in tribute and gratitude to Gilbert Barker who passed over the rainbow in 2017 and in celebration of his gift to our Community.

Gilbert Baker and President Obama at the White House (Photo courtesy of People)

“Our job as gay people was to come out, to be visible – to live in the truth, as I say – to get out of the lie.” — Gilbert Baker



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