The month of June holds special meaning for many people because it is known around the world as LGBTQ Pride Month. In San Jose and Santa Clara County, the governing boards issue pride proclamations and raise the rainbow flag, usually at their first meeting in June.
Ken Yeager was the first openly gay councilmember elected to the San Jose City Council in November 2000, taking office January 1, 2001. In June 2001, Yeager asked the city manager and Mayor Ron Gonzales if he could raise the rainbow flag in front of what is now called Old City Hall on Mission Street. They both agreed.
It was the first time the Pride flag was flown there, so there was quite a media event around the flagpole. The Silicon Valley Gay Men’s Chorus sang a moving rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Like city hall before 2001, the rainbow flag had never flown at the County Government Center. That changed in June 2007 when Yeager hoisted the flag after winning election as the first openly gay member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Once again, the Silicon Valley Gay Men’s Chorus sang the national anthem.
The flag from that first event in 2001 was framed in a large glass case and hung in Yeager’s office during his time on city council, and later hung outside his door at the county building.
The rainbow flag has flown over the County Government Center during LGBTQ Pride Month every year since 2007. In fact, the rainbow flag has become such an important symbol of the values of the county that when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in 2013 County Executive Jeff Smith agreed with Supervisor Yeager that it should fly every workday, which it did from that day forward.
On the 6th annual International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 22, 2016, the county raised the Transgender Pride Flag at the County Government Center, making it the first county in the nation to do so. Afterwards, it was decided to fly it under the rainbow flag everyday as well.
After the horrific killings in Orlando, Florida, at the Pulse Night Club, in grief and solidarity the Rainbow and Transgender Pride Flags were flown at half-staff for two days.
The pink, lavender and blue Bisexual Pride flag was raised for the first time at the Santa Clara County Government Center for the first time on September 21, 2017, as part of Bi Week of Visibility.
In 2019, a large coalition of local organizations and residents who stood united to speak out against the future opening of a Chick-fil-A at Mineta San Jose Int’l Airport (SJC) Terminal B. Unable legally reverse the contract with Chick-fil-A, Ken urged the City Council to instead fly the rainbow and transgender flags as powerful symbol signaling that San Jose is a welcoming place to visit and live. The flags would come to serve to counter the discriminatory causes supported by the company and its leadership.
On March 10, 2021, BAYMEC Community Foundation Executive Director Ken Yeager and members of BAYMEC hoisted the rainbow and transgender flags at SJC Terminal A. The flags, which are now prominently displayed in the Terminal A Baggage Claim, expand on the SJC’s commitment to providing a welcoming environment for those traveling to San Jose.
The installation of the new flag poles in Terminal doubles down on that expression of welcoming and celebration of diversity. In addition to the support of the City Council, SJC Aviation Director John Aitken and Communications Director Vicki Day were essential in showing that San Jose welcomes all LGBTQ+ travelers.