Gabrielle Antolovich, Ken Yeager and Anthony Becker, on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community, pulled together as one to raise high the flags of the City of Santa Clara and Pride outside City Hall June 3, launching June Pride Month for a sixth year in Santa Clara.
The rainbow Pride flag symbolizes the hope of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) community for inclusion and equity under the law at a time when well over 200 anti-LGBTQIA bills have been proposed in state legislatures across the U.S.
“We must not forget that even today, individuals continue to face discrimination, hate and violence for how they identify,” said Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, opening the noon ceremony, attended by council members and other political dignitaries, LGBTQIA+ community members and supportive allies.
The lineup of speakers Gillmor introduced preceding the Pride flag raising was impressive: State District 25 Assembly Member Alex Lee, District 28 Assembly Member Evan Low, State Senator Bob Wieckowski, Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, Santa Clara City Council Member Anthony Becker, Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai, BAYMEC Community Foundation Executive Director Ken Yeager, Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs representative Sera Fernando and Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center Board President Gabrielle Antolovich.
“At a time when citizens nationwide are being punished for who they are and how they love, I am committed to continue supporting legislation that fiercely protects the rights and privacy of our LGBTQ+ constituents,” said Wieckowski.
“I still live in a time where I am often times self-conscious and worried of being attacked for holding my partner’s hand in public,” said Becker, who is gay. “The fears of the past are becoming the fears of today. We are in an endemic of racial, gender and queer phobias.”
Antolovich, who identifies as a non-binary gender queer person, shared her story of rejection by family and society, her depression after the recent mass shootings in the U.S. and her reborn hope.
“I stood my ground at great cost. My mother rejected me,” said Antolovich. “I felt the shame of my family. What happened to me should never happen to a child.”
Antolovich identified with the poem “Hymn for the Hurting” by Amanda Gorman, America’s first Youth Poet Laureate.
“But only when everything hurts, may everything change,” wrote Gorman.
“We’ve heard some of the best politicians here today,” said Antolovich. “I can feel my spirit getting bigger again. I can feel hope.”
“It is so very important to mobilize together against prejudice and protect the rights of all individuals,” said Gillmor. “It is our civic duty to continue to fight for all of our rights collectively—so that all of our friends, family and neighbors are accepted for who they are and are treated equally.”
Santa Clara resident and queer ally Debra von Huene was buoyed by the ceremony.
“It was wonderful. I feel very inspired to see so many allies here as well as representatives of the [Pride] community,” said von Huene. “As the chairperson of the Cultural Commission, I feel it’s important to celebrate the diversity of our community and value each person as an individual. Love is love.”
The Santa Clara City Library is hosting multiple Pride events for children and adults throughout June. For details, visit the library website.
In Sunnyvale in a tradition begun in 2019, the Pride flag was raised without fanfare at City Hall on June 1. Sunnyvale will host a Pride celebration downtown on Murphy Avenue on June 23 at 5 p.m. The Sunnyvale library is screening weekly LGBTQ films throughout June.
Pride Month in celebrated in the month of June marking the 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Club which resulted in beatings and arrests of gay patrons. Back then, homosexuality was criminal offense and police claimed liquor law violations to justify the raid. Instead of running to escape the abuse, patrons and their supporters remained in protested outside the Club.
While wide support of LGTBQ in all halls of government is needed, Patrick Nikolai is speaking at this event is shameful. Between 2019 and 2022, the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs Association, which Nikolai is part of, issued letters of condemnation regarding violence against the AAPI community and symbols of Anti-Semitism but they have never issued a statement condemning violence against the LGBTQ community. City of Palo Alto police officers used excessive force against Gustavo Alvarez, the incident was captured on home surveillance video and officers were recorded on their own body worn cameras mocking the gay man and enjoying the unwarranted violence. Six months prior to Nikolai being sworn in as police chief in 2020, Benitez was charged with excessive force and filing a false police report.
Here’s a link to the Santa Clara County Police Chief’s Association Twitter page, you’ll notice no condemnation of unprovoked violence against the LGBTQ community.
Benitez’s fellow officers gave him the “Fuse” moniker due to the way he consistently escalated encounters which usually ended in him abusing citizens. Neither Patrick Nikolai or any other head of law enforcement in the county has ever condemned the unprovoked attack on the gay man, the revelation that officers refused to report an officer who they considered “a fuse”, or the fact that police officers knowing fabricate police reports.