LAWRENCE — Mayor Daniel Rivera raised the rainbow flag – an international symbol of gay pride – outside City Hall Tuesday evening after an hour-long ceremony of speeches, song and prayer recognizing gay pride month. The event also commemorated the 49 people killed by a gunman on a rampage inside an Orlando, Florida nightclub on June 11, 2016.
The ceremony and flag-raising helped to launch Rainbow Alianza, a newly formed alliance of several local social service agencies, coming together to promote events for the gay and lesbian community in the region, including an open mic at El Taller on June 29.
“Lawrence is a safe space, not only for immigrants, for women and children of all races, but definitely for the LGBTQ community,” Rivera told a group of about 70 people in opening remarks at an event similar to others being held this month nationwide. “As mayor, we will ensure that is the case in every corner of the community. We will not stand for hate. We will not stand for violence. I'm not against anyone of us, regardless of who we are, regardless of who you want to love.”
The speeches began at Campagnone Common outside City Hall, then moved inside as rain began falling, then moved back to the common as the rain ended in time to raise the rainbow flag where the city regularly raises other flags, mostly from nations that have sent immigrants to Lawrence. On three other poles in the cluster, the city flies the U.S. flag, the Massachusetts commonwealth flag and a flag commemorating prisoners of war. Rivera said the rainbow flag will remain up for about 30 days.
Rivera delivered a proclamation to the Rainbow Alianza recognizing its contribution to the local gay community. State Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, delivered a similar one from the state.
“Last year it was a sad occasion,” L'Italien told the group, referring to the first raising of the rainbow flag after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The gunman, Omar Mateen, wounded 58 besides killing the 50 others in what was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. “Going forward, the work being done (is to) make everyone feel proud of who they are. This is a welcoming city, where everyone flourishes.”
L'Italien noted her role in passing legislation in 2004 that made Massachusetts the first state to allow gay marriage, and the role she played last year in passing a bill protecting transgender people. She noted that opponents of that law have gathered enough signatures to put a referendum to repeal it on the ballot next year.
“Basic fundamental human rights are still under attack and still need to be protected and preserved,” L'Italien said.