St. John's to fly rainbow flag during Olympics

Local gay rights activists are asking the people in this province to do their part to show support for LGBT people in Russia by flying the rainbow flag, and the St. John's council voted to fly the flag over city hall.

Other communities across province join in, will fly flags to show support for LGBT

Peg Norman is selling gay pride flags at The Travel Bug at 50 per cent off for customers who will display the flag during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. (CBC)

Local gay rights activists are asking the people in Newfoundland and Labrador to show support for LGBT people in Russia by flying the rainbow flag, with St. John's council voting to fly the flag over city hall.

Controversial anti-gay legislation recently passed in Russia casts a shadow over the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said council voted unanimously to support the initiative.

Dennis O'Keefe says city council is proud to show its support for the LGBT community. (CBC)
"Flying the rainbow flag during the Olympics is really a sign of support for people in other countries, in this case in particular in Russia, the people who have been denied their liberties as individuals, and people who are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation," O'Keefe said.

"This is something we're very proud to be a part of, because it reinforces our position that all people in society have a right to realize their potential."

The Outport, a local magazine for LGBT people, and the city will be raising the flag in front of city hall on Friday, Feb. 7 at 12:30 p.m. - the same date as the opening ceremonies in Sochi.

The flags are for sale at the Travel Bug, a shop on Water Street in downtown St. John's. Store owner Peg Norman said she's selling the flags at 50 per cent off for customers who will display them during the Olympics.

Norman said Olympic officials need to rethink their processes and show support for LGBT people across the globe.

"The Olympics hold themselves up as this model of perfection, but at the same time they're quite willing, obviously, to stomp on basic human rights of the gay and lesbian community around the world, and they seriously need to look at their role," she said.

"It's unfortunate for the athletes that have worked so hard to get to this level, but you also can't ignore the fact that there are basic human rights that we are talking about."

The call for a show of solidarity came from Josh Eddy, publisher of The Outport, a magazine for the local gay community.

Josh Eddy, publisher of The Outport, says the support is about showing solidarity for LGBT people who are suffering, not protesting the Olympics. (CBC)
Eddy said he thinks it's important for LGBT people who have rights to show support for people being persecuted.

"Especially with what's going on in Russia right now and other parts of the world I thought that it would be a nice symbolic gesture that people could do to show that they support and stand in solidarity with the LGBT community worldwide," he said.

In an email on Wednesday, Eddy said other communities across the province have also contacted him to join the campaign and will raise rainbow flags to show their support.

Councils in Gander, Corner Brook, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Mount Pearl have contacted him to express their interest in raising a pride flag.

Eddy said the amount of support across the province from communities unanimously deciding to take part in the symbolic gesture has been overwhelming.

According to Eddy, the message wasn't about protesting the Olympics.

"It's not about the Olympics, it's just that right now the spotlight is on Russia, and Russia has some of these anti-gay legislations that are causing problem and suppression, and the world spotlight is on Russia right now," he said.

"It's not against Olympics. It's not against Russians. It's something in support of people who are going through struggles that we went through for years."

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