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The LGBT rainbow flag, Freedom flag or Gay pride flag is a symbol of LGBT pride and LGBT social movements in use since the 1970s. The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride in LGBT rights marches. It originated in the United States, but is now used worldwide. Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978,[1][2] the design has undergone several revisions. As of 2008, the most common variant consists of six stripes, with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet (Not to be confused with the "peace" flag which has seven colors, with red at the bottom). The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as the colors would appear in a natural rainbow. 🏳️‍🌈


Original eight-stripe version designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978

Version with hot pink removed due to fabric unavailability. (1978-1979)

Gay flag.svg
Six-color version popular since 1979. Number of stripes reduced to an even number to prevent middle color from being hidden when hung vertically on lampposts

The original gay-pride flag was hand-dyed by Gilbert Baker. It flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. (However, it was not the first time that spectrum or rainbow colors had been associated with gay and lesbian people.) The flag consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors as follows:

hot pink: sexuality
red: life
orange: healing
yellow: sunlight
green: nature
turquoise: magic
blue: serenity
violet: spirit

After the November 27, 1978, assassination of openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased. To meet demand, the Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric consisting of seven stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet. As Baker ramped up production of his version of the flag, he too dropped the hot pink stripe due to the unavailability of hot-pink fabric. Also, San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling a surplus stock of Rainbow Girls flags from its Polk Street retail store, which at the time was San Francisco's main gay neighborhood.


The rainbow flag (Queer Easter week, Gemeinde Werneuchen, Germany, 16 April 2006).

In 1979, the flag was modified again. When hung vertically from the lamp posts of San Francisco's Market Street, the center stripe was obscured by the post itself. Changing the flag design to one with an even number of stripes was the easiest way to rectify this, so the turquoise stripe was dropped, which resulted in a six stripe version of the flag - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

In 1989, the rainbow flag came to nationwide attention in the United States after John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to prohibit him from displaying the flag from his West Hollywood, California, apartment balcony.

The rainbow flag celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003. During the gay pride celebrations in June of that year, Gilbert Baker restored the rainbow flag back to its original eight-striped version and has since advocated that others do the same. However, the eight-striped version has seen little adoption by the wider gay community, which has mostly stuck with the better known six-striped version.

In autumn 2004 several gay businesses in London were ordered by Westminster City Council to remove the rainbow flag from their premises, as its display required planning permission. When one shop applied for permission, the Planning sub-committee refused the application on the chair's casting vote (May 19, 2005), a decision condemned by gay councillors in Westminster and the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In November the council announced a reversal of policy, stating that most shops and bars would be allowed to fly the rainbow flag without planning permission.

File:PASTT at Gay Pride 2005.JPG

Front line of PASTT at Gay Pride in Paris, France; June 2005

Today many LGBT individuals and straight allies often put rainbow flags in the front of their yards and/or front doors, or use rainbow bumper stickers on their vehicles to use as an outward symbol of their identity or support.

On the 14th of June 2004, gay activists sailed to Australia's uninhabited Coral Sea Islands Territory and raised the Gay flag, proclaiming the territory independent of Australia, calling it the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands.


Many variations of the rainbow flag have been used. Some of the more common ones include the Greek letter 'lambda' (lower case) in white in the middle of the flag and a pink triangle or black triangle in the upper left corner. Other colours have been added, such as a black stripe symbolising those community members lost to AIDS. The rainbow colours have also often been used in gay alterations of national and regional flags, replacing for example the red and white stripes of the flag of the United States. In 2007, the Pride Family Flag was introduced in Houston, Texas. This variation celebrates LGBT parents, families and couples everywhere.

Rainbow colours as symbol of gay pride

The rainbow decorates a metro station in Montreal's gay village

The basic rainbow flag has spawned innumerable variations. One common item of jewelry is the pride necklace or freedom rings, consisting of six rings, one of each colour, on a chain. Other variants range from key chains to candles.

In Montréal, the entrance to Beaudry metro station, which serves that city's Gay Village, was rebuilt in 1999 with rainbow-coloured elements integrated into its design.

See also


  1. "The Rainbow Flag" . Retrieved on 2007-08-21. 
  2. Gilbert Baker. "Pride-Flyin' Flag: Rainbow-flag founder marks 30-years anniversary", Metro Weekly, 18 October 2007. Retrieved on 2008-03-13. 

External links

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