Carlos Pineda speaks during a June 1 ceremony celebrating the raising of the Pride Flag over Gilroy City Hall. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
music in the park san jose

For the first time in Gilroy’s history, a rainbow flag celebrating the LGBTQ community is flying over city hall. But supporters acknowledged that Gilroy and Santa Clara County still have a long way to go before the community is fully embraced.

Residents joined elected officials in raising the flag during a ceremony on June 1 in recognition of LGBTQ Pride Month.

Vice Mayor Fred Tovar, who helped organize the ceremony, said the flag “sends a message that Gilroy is an open and welcoming community.”

“It’s Pride Month 2021, and all are welcome,” he said. “We see you, and you are beautiful.”

Celebrated annually in June, Pride Month acknowledges the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

Chef Carlos Pineda, a Gilroy native involved with numerous local organizations, said that in a recent survey, 40 percent of LGBTQ youth in California seriously considered suicide over the past 12 months. Thirty percent said they have been physically threatened or harmed during their lifetime, while 40 percent of transgender or non-binary youth reported being assaulted due to their gender identity.

“I too have been a victim of emotional, verbal and physical assault for being me on the same streets you all walk on, attending the same functions you attend and going to the same grocery stores you shop at,” he said.

Pineda added that the raising of the Pride flag represents a symbol of peace, belonging and “a safe community where it’s OK to be yourself.”

“I’m not here today to say it’s about time,” he said. “I’m here to say it’s better late than never. We are here making history and showing our future generations that we are here to love them and support them for being them.”

People gathered on the lawn in front of Gilroy City Hall to see the Pride Flag be raised for the first time on June 1. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Gilroy resident Erik Cisneros, who worked with LGBTQ youth in the Youth Space Program and now with the county’s Gender Health Center, said “I didn’t exactly feel like I belonged” upon moving to the city from San Jose in 2007.

“In recent years, the tide is definitely turning,” Cisneros said. “I feel a lot more welcome.”

The Gilroy City Council’s May 3 approval of the Pride flag was a split decision, which set off a social media flurry among those who both agreed and disagreed with the action.

The council voted unanimously in favor of proclaiming June as LGBTQ Pride Month in Gilroy. But it was split on flying the Pride flag, with Mayor Marie Blankley and Councilmembers Dion Bracco and Carol Marques dissenting.

In a May 4 Facebook post, Marques wrote that Gilroy may be on a “slippery slope” and a “can of worms has just been opened.”

Photo: Erik Chalhoub

“I oppose how this group has been treated by others and while I have many friends who fall into this category, I felt we needed to stay neutral and not fly any group’s flag at City Hall other than our government flags,” she wrote. “Now that the door has been open in flying one group’s flag, what happens when the Council is asked again to fly someone else’s flag? Could we be sued for saying ‘no’ because we are not treating every group equally?”

The council, at its May 17 meeting, approved a policy for future commemorative flags on the city’s flag poles. The policy states that flag requests will be approved at the discretion of the council.

Marques’ post drew dozens of comments, most of which condemned her thoughts, while a few others supported her decision.

Among the commenters were Hollister Vice Mayor Rolan Resendiz, Morgan Hill City Councilmember Rene Spring and Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra, representing cities that have also raised the Pride flag.

Previous articlePHOTOS: Commemorating Memorial Day in Gilroy
Next articleBetabel project breaks ground
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here