WATCH: Gulfport, LGBTQ Resource Center honor Pride Month

ABOVE: (L-R) State Rep. Jennifer Webb, LGBTQ Resource Center President Susan Gore, Gulfport City Councilmember Paul Ray and a staff member. Screenshot via YouTube.

GULFPORT, Fla. | The City of Gulfport and the LGBTQ Resource Center honored LGBTQ Pride Month May 28 by raising the Pride flag in front of the Gulfport Public Library.

The gathering was intentionally small and socially distant, a response to COVID-19. The ceremony is normally attended en masse by the city’s growing, LGBTQ-inclusive community.

“It’s sad that we have to implement a flag-raising in this manner,” Gulfport City Councilmember Paul Ray shared with those in attendance and a camera, “but we need to set an example for following the guidelines set down for us and to keep our community safe and healthy.”

“I heard from a few people who said ‘we don’t need a flag-raising,’” he continued. “To them I say ‘to the contrary.’ Those who are at risk staying at home … are mostly doing so alone – and for them, raising the flag is a symbolic hug from the community that stands solidly behind them.”

The councilmember subsequently welcomed LGBTQ Resource Center President Susan Gore. She began by reflecting on the ceremony’s nature.

“Flags are signals,” she shared. “A checkered flag signals the end of a race, the stars and stripes signal 50 states that come together as a nation – and the flag we’re about to raise signals the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, in all of our diversity as well as our shared humanity.”

Gore noted that the Gulfport Public Library was the ideal location to celebrate Pride as it houses the resource center. The award-winning nonprofit began operating as an independent entity in 2019 and now features 7,000 materials to celebrate and educate the community it serves.

State Rep. Jennifer Webb spoke next, the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to higher office in the Florida. She represents District 69, which includes 12 cities throughout the area including her home of Gulfport, Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg and more.

“I’m honored to be here today and it’s very somber looking out on the green where there’s normally … scores of people gathered to raise the flag,” Webb began. “It also feels right that our community is taking this crisis seriously, because the LGBT community knows what it’s like to go through a pandemic that kills people and for reasons that are an unknown.”

Webb subsequently discussed the impact of the AIDS crisis on the community, reflecting on the death of LGBTQ pioneer Larry Kramer and more. Community leaders like Kramer made it possible for her to “stand here as the first out lesbian elected to higher office in Florida,” she shared.

“We really know how to do community well here,” Webb concluded. “I’m happy to be here with you today and happy to be here for the raising of the flag.”

You can watch the ceremony in its entirety below, via the City of Gulfport’s YouTube channel:

For more information about the LGBTQ Resource Center and Gulfport Public Library, visit their website.

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