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When Pittsburgh flies rainbow flag, some see red

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 9:55 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
A rainbow flag, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride, flies with the American and city of Pittsburgh flags outside of the City-County Building, Downtown.

A rainbow flag flying outside the City-County Building, Downtown, led Mary Ann Burkhart to take a stand.

Burkhart of Bethel Park took issue with a decision by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration to hoist the flag representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on Wednesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for a second day on gay marriage.

“This is outrageous,” Burkhart said on Thursday. “What's the message here? You can't not speak up.”

Ravenstahl's office received a few calls about the flag, a symbol of gay pride, that it said flew “in recognition” of the high court's consideration of the federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Marissa Doyle, a Ravenstahl spokeswoman, said she was not sure if all the callers complained. She said workers took down the flag, which flew below the American flag and the city flag, after rallies on Wednesday in support of gay marriage.

Still, it left Burkhart seeing red.

“Lesbians, gays and transsexuals are honored ... under a flag that many people have died for?” she said. “I'm crying for my country.”

Lyndsey Sickler, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh, said flying the rainbow flag lifted the spirits of people in Pittsburgh's LGBT community.

“It is important that our city government shows its solidarity with the ... community,” said Sickler of Beechview. “It hasn't always been that way.”

The city sometimes hoists other flags in addition to the American and city flags. It flew an Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA Flag in April.

The rainbow flag has been raised outside the City-County Building for the past two years during Gay Pride Week in June, said Jim Sheppard, special assistant to the mayor.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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