LGBTQ South Florida

Portion of Key West’s mammoth LGBT rainbow flag on way to Australia

Flag carriers reach the Atlantic Ocean as they finish spreading a 1¼-mile-long rainbow flag up and down Duval Street in Key West on June 15, 2003.
Flag carriers reach the Atlantic Ocean as they finish spreading a 1¼-mile-long rainbow flag up and down Duval Street in Key West on June 15, 2003. Florida Keys News Bureau

Key West and its giant LGBT rainbow flag will represented Saturday at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Australia.

LoveisLove Executive Director Mark Ebenhoch is bringing with him to Sydney a portion of Key West’s 1.25-mile rainbow flag, first unfurled in 2003 by 2,000 volunteers along the full-length of Duval Street, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

“T minus 45 minutes... The Sacred Cloth is in my hand,” Ebenhoch posted Monday on Facebook. “You ALL are with me in spirit making this crossing. Sea to Sea, hemispehere to hemisphere. Know its in safe hands... gotta remember, I USED to guard Ambassadors!”

The original gay rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker of San Francisco, who was featured in the 2014 Emmy-winning Miami Herald/WPBT Channel 2 documentary about LGBT rights in South Florida, The Day It Snowed In Miami. Baker also supervised the sewing of Key West’s flag.

Here’s the complete news release:

A section of the 1.25-mile-long sea-to-sea rainbow flag that was unfurled along the full length of Key West’s Duval Street in 2003 will be featured in Australia’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade March 5.

Mark Ebenhoch, executive director of LoveisLove Key West, left Key West International Airport with Section No. 93 of the flag Monday en route to Australia.

LoveisLove Key West is a local group that allies itself with the national LoveisLove project, born out of the LGBT rights movement.

The original rainbow flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride in response to anti-gay activities.

In the spring of 2003, Baker and a team of volunteers cut and sewed the 1.25-mile-long version of the flag in Key West to celebrate the iconic banners 25th anniversary. On June 15, 2003, some 2,000 volunteers unfurled the flag from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico along the entire length of Duval Street, in a sea-to-sea representation of pride and diversity.

Gregg McGrady, a local businessman who envisioned the Key West flag’s creation and display, said he still gets goosebumps remembering the day the massive banner was unfurled.

“How cool was it to see so many people from all walks of life come together to make this one moment in time happen?” he said. “Key West is attached to this for the rest of our lives.”

The flag was then divided into numbered sections and shipped to communities around the globe for use in LGBT celebrations, events and displays.

“It’s about sharing the One Human Family message,” Ebenhoch said. “We want everyone else to have what we have here in Key West.”

Ebenhoch will represent Key West when he walks Section No. 93 along the Sydney parade route as part of an American delegation to include U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry, who is openly gay.

Ebenhoch said he plans to dip one end of Section No. 93 of the giant rainbow flag, whose ends were dipped into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico during its 2003 Duval Street unfurling, into the waters of the Pacific Ocean while in Australia.