The governing body unanimously accepted a donation of the Rainbow Flag from resident Michael Peterson at the February 1st Mayor & Council meeting for unrestricted general use in the borough through Resolution 55-18.
The Rainbow Flag was created 40 years ago by artist Gilbert Baker at the Gay Community Center in San Francisco on June 25, 1978. It was designed in response to activist and friend Harvey Milk’s call for the need of a community symbol. Mr. Baker originally designed a flag with eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet which, according to the artist, represent, respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. In the tradition of America’s first flag, Mr. Baker dyed and sewed the material for the original Rainbow Flag himself. In 1979, the flag was modified to six colors – having removed pink and combined turquoise with indigo to become royal blue – into the Rainbow Flag that is known today.
Over its four decades in existence, it has become an important symbol for the support of civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. It is synonymous with LGBTQ pride and social movements.
Resident Michael Peterson, who came out as gay to his family when he was 15-years-old in Minneapolis, recalls his personal journey. He remarked, “It was not safe to even discuss the issue publicly and I struggled with my identity as a teenager the same as millions of other teenagers. It is absolutely amazing for a man my age – I will be 70 this year – to see how far the LGBTQ community has come over the last 50 years. It sometimes brings tears of joy to my eyes when I realize how much we, as a nation, have changed. I have always been proud of who I am and I donated the Pride Flag to the Casano Center to celebrate that pride.”
Although he and his husband Ed will be celebrating their third wedding anniversary this coming Wednesday, they have been together for more than three decades. New Jersey legally recognized same-sex marriage on October 21, 2013. Over a year and a half later – and 37 years and a day after the Rainbow Flag was created – on June 26, 2015, as a result of the United States Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage was established in all 50 states as legal and binding. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority asserted that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”
Mr. Peterson concluded, “Roselle Park welcomed my husband Ed and me from the day we moved here 15 years ago and I had the honor to be the first openly gay candidate to run for office in the Borough [for] 2nd Ward Council in 2006 and even though I lost I truly believe that my sexuality was never an issue. It amazes me that Ed and I were able to marry each other three years ago after we had been together more than 28 years and donating that flag is an expression of the pride I take in my relationship and the town we live in. It is incredible that we now have two openly gay people who have been elected to council. What a long strange trip it’s been!”
The Rainbow Flag was flown in Roselle Park during Gay Pride Month last June and in 2016 after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting which claimed 49 lives, the second deadliest mass shooting in the United States – eighth in the world – in modern history.