‘Stonewall 50’ Rainbow Flag Flies Over F.C. City Hall for Pride Month

By a unanimous vote at its meeting Monday, the Falls Church City Council voted to order the flying of the rainbow flag, emblematic of the movement for LGBTQ rights, on the City Hall flagpole during the “Pride Month” of June. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in June 1969, recognized as marking the birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement.

The signing of a Council proclamation recognizing “LGBTQ Pride and Stonewall Rebellion Month” by Mayor David Tarter was followed by a motion from Council member Letty Hardi and unanimous 6-0 vote to “authorize and direct the City Manager and his staff to fly the LGBTQ Pride Flag in front of City Hall during the month of June to reflect the City’s spirit of inclusion and to honor LGBTQ Pride Month in the City of Falls Church.”

The flag flying reflected actions taken by a number of jurisdictions across the U.S. to do likewise, most being reported on social media and some occurring in states where the issue of equal rights has been contentious even to now. The reports include cases of defiance by U.S. State Department and other federal government entities that were ordered by President Trump not to do so this month.

The Council’s proclamation affirmed “the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all people” as being “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace,” adding that the City “is proud of the meaningful, long-lasting impacts the LGBTQ community has made and the contributions it has brought to the City’s rich and diverse culture.”

It added, “The City of Falls Church remains committed to treating all people with fairness and respect and to creating a community where everyone can live without fear of prejudice, discrimination, violence or hatred based on gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Mayor Tarter presented the proclamation on behalf of the entire Council to Falls Church News-Press founder, owner and editor Nicholas Benton, who as an openly LGBTQ resident and businessman serves on statewide LGBTQ rights organizations and is, himself, a pioneer of the modern movement, having co-founded a San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Gay Liberation Front as a graduate seminarian shortly after the Stonewall Uprisings in 1970. He is the author of a book that has been a “Gay Studies” bestseller.
Also thanking the Council for its proclamation Monday was School Board member Lawrence Webb, who said it was just a decade ago that he first ran for office in Falls Church and won to become the first openly gay African-American elected official in Virginia history. Webb has served terms on both the City Council and the School Board here.

Tarter and member of the Council were invited to present their proclamation at the upcoming celebration of “Stonewall 50,” the anniversary of the uprising, to be held in Falls Church on Sunday, June 23, at the Falls Church Episcopal Church at 4 p.m., to which everyone is invited. The event is being sponsored by the Falls Church News-Press and the Social Justice Committee of Falls Church and Environs, a group of the Tinner Hill Foundation.

The free event will be in the form of an educational seminar on the LGTBQ movement and its progress that will feature a panel including State Del. Danica Roem, the first transgender person elected to state office in Virginia in 2017, the openly LGBTQ assistant pastor at the Falls Church Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Diane Maloney, Benton and two persons who were actually there at the Stonewall riots in 1969, one a current city resident. (The riots were three days of clashes between LGBTQ — mostly youth and street people — with New York police in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. From it came an explosion of political organizing energy to create and develop many LGBTQ rights organizations across the U.S. in the subsequent years.)

The panel will be moderated by Lou Chibarro, who has been a staff reporter since the 1970s at the Washington Blade newspaper that has served the regional LGBTQ community for 50 years itself.

The panel will be followed by a reception at Clare and Don’s Beach Shack later that afternoon, also open to the public.

At Monday’s meeting, Benton noted the significance of the historic Falls Church Episcopal Church as the site of the June 23 event. In the previous decade, he noted, the church became the center of a struggle over LGBTQ rights itself for almost a decade, when a large segment of the congregation voted to leave the national Episcopal Church denomination in protest of its election of an openly-gay bishop, the Rev. Gene Robinson. They then proceeded to occupy the property for over a half-dozen years before exhausting all their legal challenges and the courts finally ordered them to vacate the property and return it to the Episcopal diocese.

He said the resilience of, and community support (including editorially from the News-Press) for the “continuing Episcopalians” who were invited to hold forth at the Falls Church Presbyterian Church across the street during a seven-year “exile” from their historic property, and their eventual return to it and subsequent robust growth and affirmation, themselves, of equality has helped enormously to create a diversity-affirming and welcoming atmosphere throughout the City of Falls Church as reflected in Monday’s proclamation.

That welcoming environment in recent years may also be a contributing factor to the fact that the City has seen the fastest growth in the entire region of single-resident occupancies by persons under 65, according to a demographic study that the City is currently incorporating into its Comprehensive Plan.

Other Pride Month “Stonewall 50” events are also slated for Falls Church and the region, including a June 25 showing of the Academy Award-winning film, “Milk,” at 6 p.m. at the NoVa Labor Hall, 4636 John Marr Dr. in Annandale, hosted by Nova Pride. On Thursday, June 27, the Fairfax LGBT Democrats will host a film showing of the documentary, “Before Stonewall,” at the Cinema Arts Theater in Fairfax at 6:30 p.m.,

The second “Love is Love” party at the State Theatre in Falls Church, hosted by Clare and Don’s, will be held on Saturday, July 13 at 9 p.m.