For the first time ever, the vivid colors of the Pride flag are flying high above Federal Way City Hall.
On June 1, a group of nearly 20 city and state officials, local leaders and members of the queer community gathered to witness the historic raising of the rainbow pride flag. The flag is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and pansexual (LGBTQIA+) community pride and social movements.
“When I went on this journey, I didn’t intend for it to become all this,” said Allison Taylor, a queer advocate and one of the driving forces behind the flag’s arrival in Federal Way. “I didn’t do this for me. I did this for people who have been in this community forever … so many people who have existed in Federal Way, but live in the shadow of their truths because they’re not sure how their community will accept them.”
The flag will be flown at City Hall for the entire month of June. The month is also nationally recognized as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969.
It has been a controversial and hard-fought battle to bring the flag to Federal Way. In 2019, Taylor requested that the city raise the pride flag outside of City Hall when Federal Way officially recognized Pride Month for the first time in city history. However, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell had denied this request stating concern for equal protection violations, and instructed his legal counsel to create a draft flag policy.
In Dec. 2019 following months of controversy, a flag policy was presented to council for their consideration, but the city council volleyed the decision back to Ferrell. Ferrell ultimately voted to allow special interest flags to fly at City Hall.
On Monday morning outside of City Hall, Taylor commended the mayor for his courage and leadership in regards to the decision.
“I want to thank you for making the right decision, even though it was a really hard decision,” Taylor said, to which the mayor replied “the decision got very easy.”
While the months of controversy surrounding the special interest flag were uncomfortable, Taylor said she believes it created a situation where the mayor felt the palpable oppression many in the gay community often feel in their own lives.
Taylor said for a long time, Federal Way has had a primarily conservative voice, but this is a step in the direction of the kind of city the community would like to see.
“I am really excited that the City of Federal Way is flying a Pride flag to honor Pride Month,” Taylor told the Mirror. “I also know there’s still a long way to go in the community regarding acceptance and true equality, and I hope our neighbors take note of the leadership from City Hall in making the decision to display this symbol of inclusion.”
“This is really about one shared humanity, love for everyone,” said State Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-District 30), adding that now local community members and those in neighboring cities will know Federal Way is a welcoming place.
Ferrell noted the flag signifies love and accepting fellow neighbors, then read aloud the June 2020 Pride Month mayoral proclamation that was given to State Sen. Claire Wilson (D-District 30).
“We are proud that Federal Way fosters a welcoming environment for all residents and visitors regardless of race, ethnicity, place of origin, or sexual orientation or identity,” Ferrell said.
Senator Wilson, who identifies as a lesbian, came out when she was 19 years old. She is the first openly lesbian state Senator in the history of Washington and said she often has not used that part of her identity as a focus point, rather driving the attention to her plans of how to improve the community.
“I’ve never really led with who I am or how I identify,” she said. “Our job as a community is to understand and represent everyone who lives here … today was an opportunity, I think for the first time, for members of the community to feel like they could stand up and be represented.”
Federal Way also does not have a long history of understanding how different individuals walk the world, she said.
“It’s not a symbol we’re deteriorating as a society,” she said. “It’s a signal that we understand we all come from different places and have different perspectives.”
The proclamation highlights the importance of recognizing and celebrating the substantial gains that have been achieved for the LGTBQ community, while still recognizing the need for the community to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Taylor also asked all of the ceremony attendees to touch the Pride flag before it was raised. Applause and cheers erupted as the rainbow colors reached the top of the flagpole.
Longtime Federal Way resident Catherine North proudly looked on as the flag was raised Monday morning. Last December, she explained what the colors of the flag stand for at a Dec. 2, 2019, council meeting.
“The red is for life, the orange is for healing, the yellow is for the sun, the green is for nature, the blue is for harmony, the violet is for spirit,” North said.
“The flag has nothing to do with hate.”
Federal Way Pride festival
Allison Taylor is also the lead organizer of Federal Way Pride Community, a group dedicated to building a safe and inclusive community for queer individuals and allies.
Federal Way’s first Pride festival was scheduled for Aug. 1. However, the in-person event has been postponed until 2021 due to the current health crisis and concern for the safety of attendees.
“Pride is all year long,” Taylor said. “Pride is celebration of the queer culture, but I also think there’s a deep reverence for the people who have fought to get us here and the struggles that are still faced every single day in the country.”
Instead, organizers are working to plan a series of fun virtual events for supporters to participate in, such as virtual karaoke nights, dance parties, make-up tutorials, drag shows, group painting sessions and more.
The Federal Way Pride Community was born in Nov. 2019 and is grassroots organizing at its core, Taylor said.
“It really was like, ‘Hey gay people, where you at?’” Taylor said with a laugh. Taylor, who identifies as queer, came out in March 2019 at the age of 40.
“I do recognize that change can be uncomfortable, and this is a big shift in acceptance for our community,” she said. “I hope people can learn to understand that celebrating pride in Federal Way is about the whole community, about inclusion and about love.”
For more information visit, Federal Way Pride Community on Facebook or email email@example.com