Originally published in Huffington Post.
In a moving moment for the local LGBT community, Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, Ed Murray, was joined by civil rights leaders and supporters in raising the Pride flag over Seattle City Hall Sunday, June 1.
Seattle LGBT Commission Co-Chair Joey Hunziker addressed the growing crowd at 11:00 a.m. Hunziker formerly helped plan and organize the annual Capital Pride Festival in Albany, New York, and created QFEST, the first LGBTQ film festival in Upstate New York. At approximately five minutes past the hour, Hunziker introduced Murray to the crowd.
Recalling Seattle’s historical accomplishments in reference the gay rights movement, Murray put the day’s actions into perspective for all involved by noting that he is Seattle’s first openly gay mayor and the first male mayor with a husband by his side in office.
Prior to coming to Seattle from Philadelphia, Seattle LGBT Commission Co-Chair Sabina Neem served as a therapist at GirlSpace, a residential treatment facility; program manager for the Asian Arts Initiative; and an HIV tester and counselor/case manager at the Attic Youth Center and the Trans-health Information Project. In Philadelphia, Neem was involved on a policy level, including the Mayor’s Task Force on Homeless Services-Sexual and Gender Minorities Working Group, the Trans Access Project, the LGBT People of Color Coalition, the Board of Directors of the Leeway Foundation, and was appointed by Mayor Nutter to chair the Civil Rights Committee of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Advisory Board on LGBT Affairs. Neem spoke to the audience about her work as part of the Seattle LGBT Commission and transitioned into announcing her fellow Commissioner Anthony Adero.
Adero left his hometown of Kisumu to embark on a new life in Nairobi and ultimately made his way to the United States. Adero recalled to Huffington Post on January 17, 2013: “They stole my shoes, my bag, my money. I lay stomach-down on a dirt floor, embraced by darkness. Eyes closed, I heard the rush of cars down a nearby road. Where was I? I’d been dumped in a semi-completed, abandoned house without a door, which meant they could come back to rape me again and again. Mosquitoes feasted on blood from my anus. Blood was dripping down my legs. There was blood on the side of my skull, where they’d beaten me with a steel pipe, I guessed. My asshole throbbed with pain. My skull and stomach jerked with pain whenever I moved; even the slightest gesture jolted my suffering to its depths.”
Quoting Harvey Milk’s Hope speech, Adero silenced the crowd.
Speeding up the pace, Seattle Pride Idol 2013 Jack Mozie sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before Hunziker introduced Col. Margarethe (Grethe) Cammermeyer (Ret.) to the stage.
Born in Oslo, Norway in 1942, Cammermeyer served in the Washington National Guard after becoming a United States citizen in 1960. In 1961 she joined the Army Nurse Corps as a student, and then received a B.S. in Nursing two years later from the University of Maryland. Furthering her career, Cammermeyer earned her master’s degree in 1976 and a Ph.D. in 1991. But perhaps most notable was her involvement in the downfall of the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, which, she said at the ceremony, made room for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Cammermeyer beamed when speaking of her wife, Diane Divelbess, and their 23-year-marriage. She had the crowd in stitches recalling how they had been together for 23 years and she thought that they might just make it as a married couple after all.
A movie was made about Cammermeyer’s honorable discharge from the military in 1992. Glenn Close portrayed Cammermeyer in 1995’s Serving in Silence.
Next, representatives from local LGBT organizations were present for the ceremonial unveiling of the large Pride flag on the lower concourse. The esteemed group included Joe Mirabella – Mayor’s Office, Louise Chernin – GSBA, Aretha Alexander – SEqual, Sarah Toce – The Seattle Lesbian, Aleksa Manila – Seattle Grand Marshal 2014, Zachary Pullin – Seattle Grand Marshal 2014, Seattle Pride representatives, and others.
Sunday’s celebration was only the second time in Seattle’s history that the Pride flag flew over City Hall. In 2013, the Pride flag was stationed for a mere 24 hours, and the same was true for 2014. In fact, by publication time, the flag was already removed from Fourth Avenue.