South Africa Officially Recognizes The Rainbow Flag

South Africa has become the first country in the world to recognize the rainbow flag as a national symbol of the LGBT community.

The Department of Arts and Culture announced the registry of the flag earlier this month, after Eugene Brockman, who designed South Africa’s version of the flag, filed an application.

“The Gay Flag of SA is now officially recognized and protected by the Department of Arts and Culture and the government of South Africa,” said a department spokesperson.

Brockman took the original design created by Gilbert Baker in 1978 and added diagonal white-and-black bars representing the South African flag.

“The flag has become a symbol for both the celebration of queer South African identity as well as the a symbol against the obstacles facing LGBTI South Africans such as hate crimes,” Brockman told O-Blog-De-O-Blog-Da. “More than that the flag has become a watchdog, and its popularity resulted in the formation of an NPO advocacy group.”

While discrimination is still an issue in the country—and Johannesburg has been plagued by a series of murders of gay men—South Africa is a pioneer in equality:  The country’s post-apartheid constitution was the world’s first to outlaw discrimination against sexual orientation and, in 2006, South Africa became the first African nation to legalize same-sex marriage.