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Space Needle says it will raise rainbow Pride flag, if community raises $50,000 for local charities

June 14th, 2011 by Thea

The Space Needle at Seattle Center made history last year when, for the first time in the iconic building’s 50 year history, it flew the rainbow Pride flag during Seattle Pride weekend. The flying of the flag for the first time in Seattle history was viewed as act of both corporate and community support of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

But the Needle caught some flack this month after rumors circulated that the organization did not plan to raise the flag again this year, catching the attention of national progressive organization Change.org, as well as a number of local and national media outlets. With Seattle Pride fast approaching at the end of the month, many in the community spoke out, urging the Needle to again raise the flag.

After an outpouring of support for the flag over the last two weeks, the Space Needle changed its stance this week, announcing that it would raise the flag again, if the greater Seattle community agreed to take on a fundraising challenge: “If the community can raise $50,000 for 4 local charities, the Space Needle will raise the Rainbow Flag on Sunday of Seattle Pride weekend in Seattle,” the Needle wrote in a press release Monday (.pdf).

“We want to harness the enthusiasm that has built up to raise the flag for the encore performance. Our entire community gets involved in whatever issue is at hand and we think that is what makes us so strong. This challenge can reap great benefits for these worthwhile organizations,” said Space Needle LLC Chairman Jeff Wright in the statement.

The $50,000 raised, assuming the challenge is met, will be divided equally between four local charities: The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) Scholarship Program, Lambda Legal, It Gets Better for the Trevor Project and Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter for women and children. The Space Needle has kicked off the challenge by offering an inaugural donation of $5,000. From the press release:

The Rainbow Flag, flown last year on the Space Needle, will lead the Seattle Pride Parade this year and, if the community challenge is met, it will be raised on the Space Needle when the Parade ends at Seattle Center on Sunday, June 26th. The Seattle Parade has grown in stature for several years now and holds a prominent position on the national scene.

Seattle Out and Proud, the organization behind Seattle Pride weekend, has already responded to the Space Needle’s challenge, partnering with the organization to help raise the funds.

“Seattle Out and Proud is eager to join with the Space Needle to find new ways to utilize this powerful symbol of inclusion to unite communities and honor diversity. Not only do we have this new challenge to benefit many organizations in our community, we are also planning a fall fundraiser with the Space Needle to bring hope and to inspire communities nationwide where this flag can march, fly or hang over numerous cities and pride events. We fully support the community fundraiser to fly this flag once again and we hope other area businesses answer the call to do the same,” said Seattle Out & Proud Director of Outreach Elayne Wylie-Weichers in the statement.

“The Space Needle’s decision to use the Pride Flag to help raise money for several LGBT community organizations is a wonderful demonstration of their commitment to improving lives – and saving lives,” said Change.org Organizing Manager Joe Mirabella in the statement.

While many have come on board in support of the fundraiser challenge, others are irked by the implication that Seattle’s LGBT community must pay for the right to proudly fly the Pride flag.

“This challenge is the HIGHEST form of oppression that I have ever seen. The needle can raise the 12 man flag but the Pride flag has a price? I call BS!” Shelly Peterson wrote on the Space Needle’s Facebook page.

“I’m curious if the same fundraising requirement will be put in place to fly other flags?” Josh Hall wrote in the same Facebook thread. “This seems a little questionable to me!”

“I still have pics of when the Space Needle was painted crimson and gray and the WSU flag was flown BECAUSE the Cougs raised more money for Katrina relief. This is not the first time the needle has requested charitable work for the honor of raising a flag. I’m all for the cause and think the flag should be flown but I agree that charitable donations should be requested,” Mark Burchardt added.

Despite the back and forth, representatives from the Space Needle maintain that they would like to keep the raising of flags for different charities and organizations a special and rare event.

“Raising the flag last year was a one-time occurrence, as almost all of them are. We strive to keep this very special and do it on a limited basis. It is important, however, that we rotate this rare opportunity through the many worthwhile charities in the coming years. We’re excited to see the response to this new community challenge and hope that it is very successful,” Wright said in the press release.

Want to support the Pride flag challenge? You can make a donation on the fundraiser site here, and track the challenge as it progresses toward the $50,000 goal. As of 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, $10,570 had been raised.

Check out pictures from last year’s Pride Parade and celebration at Seattle Center in our past coverage. More information on this year’s Pride festival can be found at Seattle Out and Proud.

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