Gulfport Vice Mayor Paul Ray, center foreground, applauds as a city staff member begins to hoist the Gay Pride rainbow flag outside the municipal library on Thursday evening, May 30. It will fly during throughout the month of June, which is Gay Pride month.
“With all the vitriol, hatred and division that we see at the state and federal levels, it always makes me so proud of what we do here in the boundaries of this city,” said Mayor Sam Henderson, pictured far right. “We are trying to be a wonderful example of a place where people are accepted and where you are loved and you are allowed to be who you want to be. That’s extremely important. And, frankly, that’s probably the only kind of a place in the world I could be mayor of.”
District 69 Florida Representative Jennifer Webb was also a featured speaker during the ceremony. Both Ray and Webb are openly gay elected officials from Gulfport.
Inclusivity and equality is about “making sure that we are all safe and moving forward as one unified community,” said Webb. “In the words of gay icon Judy Garland, ‘Always be a first-rate version of yourself. And, not a second-rate version of someone else.’”
Gulfport Councilmember Michael Fridovich and members of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County also attended.
“If any of us are shackled whether it’s due to race, sexual orientation or anything else, we’re all shackled. We have to break the bonds so all of us can be set free,” said Fridovich.
As a summation of the gathering, Ray said, “Gulfport is a very accepting and inclusive environment to live in. And, that’s exactly why most of us ended up here. There’s no place like home.”
At this moment, members of the Gulfport Gecko Amalgamated Marching Band launched into playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and many in the crowd sang along.