Denied in a petition to have the courthouse lit in rainbow lights, locals took matters into their own hands

The city of Newark held its first Pride parade this year, yet residents have already shown more rainbow spirit than many larger locales.

Earlier in 2018, parade organizers petitioned to have the Licking County Courthouse lit in rainbow colors for the Pride celebration. (A pricy courthouse renovation added this ability, which the city took advantage of earlier this year, lighting the courthouse in blue in honor of the two veteran Westerville police officers shot and killed while responding to a February call.) A three-member board of commissioners denied the request while recognizing 19 other holidays, seasons and observances with special lighting combinations.

In early May, the Newark Advocate detailed a community appeal hearing, during which more than 100 residents packed a fourth-floor conference room, a majority of whom asked the panel to reconsider its decision.

“I spent over 30 years of my life in the closet,” Newark City Councilman Jeremy Blake said during the hearing, according to the paper. “If I had come out as a teen, my life would be different today. The courthouse lights is an example of why I did not come out: the perception the community is not welcoming or accepting.”

When the decision was not overturned, organizers and community members took the issue into their own hands during a People's Pride Light event on Friday, June 8. Following sundown, residents equipped with gelled flashlights lit the outside of the courthouse in rainbow colors — a simple-but-effective display of protest, and a reminder that the most memorable Pride moments come from people seizing power. Even in the smallest of ways.