Go Slow, Joe

Anna Marks

June 11, 2024, 5:03 p.m. ET

June 11, 2024, 5:03 p.m. ET

Martha-Ann Alito, who is married to Justice Samuel Alito, has admitted that she flies politicized flags outside her homes because she can’t stand the colors of the rainbow.

“I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag,” she told a woman posing as a Catholic conservative, “because I have to look across the lagoon at the Pride flag for the next month.” Tellingly, in the surreptitiously recorded conversation, she even fantasized about creating her own fiery flag with the word “vergogna” (“shame” in Italian) so she could say to her neighbors, “Shame, shame, shame, on you.”

Apparently, for Ms. Alito, the second great commandment, to love thy neighbor, applies only until the neighbor is proud enough to sport rainbows. Then vergogna!

To be honest, these comments aren’t particularly surprising. Ms. Alito is the wife of a justice who agreed that the country needs to return to “a place of godliness” and has argued that the court’s ruling on marriage equality restricts the free speech rights of religious conservatives. (If that’s really true, somebody should tell her to zip it before she’s jailed for her words.)

They are also emblematic of a broader campaign by the religious right to erase or shame queer culture from public view, often in the form of attempted — and successful — bans on books, flags, drag performances and curriculums. The only thing mildly revealing about Ms. Alito’s comments is that they signal it is still socially acceptable for religious conservatives to demean the queer community in supposedly polite company.

While it is undeniably exhausting that anti-L.G.B.T.Q. sentiments continue to infect members of America’s most powerful institutions, queer people should take heart that even the most benign of our symbols, the rainbow flag, still so bothers those who hate us.

In 1978, Gilbert Baker — an activist who was, as he put it, the “gay Betsy Ross” — and a group of volunteers dyed and stitched the first rainbow Pride flag in the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco. While the flag has undergone many transformations since, the rainbow has endured as a welcome, if sometimes clichéd, Pride symbol.

As the rainbow has frequently been deployed by corporations or “allies” that take little interest in L.G.B.T.Q. equality outside of a boozy June weekend, some queer people may think it has become too watered down to stand as a powerful symbol. But predictable outrage, from the Phyllises and Anitas and Martha-Anns, should remind even the most cynical of us that our symbols often speak far louder than we could alone.

In the face of a rise in attempts to restrict cultural expressions of queer identity, the rainbow is still one of the best tools we have to collectively repudiate those who wish we were ashamed to be alive. We must wave it proudly.

As for you, Martha-Ann, I say happy Pride Month! I’ll be praying for you.