Flying a gay pride rainbow flag over the Wisconsin state Capitol for the first time on June 7 drew backlash from a pair of conservative state lawmakers who said it was divisive, while Democrats unanimously hailed it as a sign of inclusivity.

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month and Democratic Governor Tony Evers ordered the raising of the flag at the capitol through to the end of the month. He also authorized other state buildings to fly a rainbow flag this month.

“Publicly displaying the Rainbow Pride Flag sends a clear and unequivocal message that Wisconsin is a welcoming and inclusive place where everyone can live without fear of persecution, judgment or discrimination,” Governor Evers said in a statement.

The move drew a fast rebuke from state Representative Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, who tweeted, “Is this any more appropriate than erecting the Christian flag over the Capitol? The rainbow flag advocates a behavior or lifestyle that some Wisconsin residents may not condone. Therefore, it is divisive.”

A Marquette Law School Poll in 2016 found 64% of Wisconsinites support same-sex marriage, including 84% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans. Democrats praised the raising of the flag, including Democratic state Senator Tim Carpenter, one of five openly gay state lawmakers.

“This is a very welcoming sign to many of us and it signifies a new direction for Wisconsin,” Carpenter said in a statement thanking Evers. “We are showing that we are a welcoming and inclusive state and that means a great deal.”

Dozens of people stood outside the Capitol’s east wing Friday afternoon and cheered as the flag was raised on a pole just below the U.S. and Wisconsin state flag. The flag was flying above where the governor’s office is located in the Capitol. Evers also authorizes other state government buildings and any jurisdiction of the state to fly the flag in June.

The governor has the sole authority to decide what flags fly over the Capitol, said Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff.

The U.S. flag, the state of Wisconsin flag and a flag recognizing prisoners of war typically fly over the state Capitol. The move comes after Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, the city’s first openly gay mayor, raised a rainbow pride flag over the building that houses city offices — across the street from the Capitol — earlier this week.

The rainbow flag has been a popular symbol of gay rights since the late 1970s and has been used in various forms at gay pride events for years.

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Greg Anderson and John Hart

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