‘You’re not taking our big gay rainbow back’

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The organisers of Foyle Pride have urged Derry to come out in larger numbers than ever to unfurl its “big gay rainbow” flag next week after a local pastor called on Christians to “take back the rainbow”.

Rev Jonathan Campbell of Newbuildings Independent Methodist Church, in a recent sermon, claimed the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) had hijacked the rainbow, which, according to the Christian Bible, he said, belongs to God.

The Foyle Pride Committee, in a statement ahead of its 24th birthday celebrations, which kick off tomorrow, said such views were antediluvian.

“As lovely as it may feel for the Rev. Jonathan Campbell calling for God to take back the rainbow from us ‘gays’, his antiquated, bigoted, and dangerous views have no place in our society in 2017.

“Pride and the rainbow flag is a celebration, but also a protest. We want equality; justice for those in our society who don’t have a voice; empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. Our choices are not imposed onto us through commandments or the word of God, but by our conscious decision to stand up for all those oppressed in our society,” the committee said.

Foyle Pride argued that using religion “as a means to justify bigoted beliefs, and to purposefully punish those in the LGBT [the latest iteration of the LGBT movement comprising all non-heterosexuality] community for being human is morally reprehensible”.

The committee also pointed to the health inequalities, poor self-esteem and violence suffered by gay people as a result of seemingly diehard prejudices that still persist despite continuing progress.

“You do not have self-hatred for being heterosexual; you do not try to self-harm or commit suicide for being heterosexual; you do not become ostracized by family, friends, community or your hometown for being heterosexual; you do not get assaulted for being or looking heterosexual; you do not experience contempt for being heterosexual; these experiences happen to those in the LGBT community every day, in every country, on every continent,” they stated.

In his sermon Rev Campbell had claimed the rainbow belonged to God alone, citing chapter 9, verse 4 of the book of Genesis in support of his argument.

But Foyle Pride said: “The Pride flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a gay artist and civil rights activist, who died earlier this year.

“Harvey Milk, an openly gay politician and the first openly gay official to be elected in the USA, challenged Gilbert to create a symbol that would represent Pride within the LGBT community, something to create new positive connotations rather than the iconic image of the upside down pink triangle imposed by the Nazis in the concentration camps during WWII.

“For many, the pink triangle was too painful a reminder of the Holocaust - death, suffering and persecution. Gilbert decided to use the Rainbow as, ‘a rainbow for us. It is from nature.

“It connects us to all the colours - all the colours of sexuality, all the diversity in our community.”

They added: “The rainbow flag symbolises a message of hope, a hope for equality and acceptance originally embodied by Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978.”

The committee urged people of all genders and none to come out to support Foyle Pride over the week ahead.

“We welcome everyone who has an inkling of compassion and desire to champion LGBT rights to come along and carry our big gay rainbow flag on Saturday, August 26, from the Waterside train station to the Guildhall at 2pm,” the committee stated.