The “Billionaire Space Race” brought a bit of space Pride to the party Saturday thanks to Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson. The 70-year-old billionaire completed the first commercial space flight on Saturday, and, though he didn’t bring a camera along, he have a Pride flag onboard in honor of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
In a pre-flight interview with Mail on Sunday, Branson said that he choose to bring a Pride flag along for the ride after “Somebody who lost a loved one at the Orlando massacre asked if I would do that.” He continued, “We also have many, many friends who are gay and I know people who lost friends there.”
The Virgin Galactic flight came one month after the site of Pulse nightclub was designated as a National Memorial just after the fifth anniversary of the shooting. 49 people lost their lives in the 2016 attack and dozens more were injured.
Branson has previously lent his voice to pro-LGBTQ causes. He pushed fellow global business leaders to be more proactive in combatting regimes and legislation in nations that criminalize LGBTQ identities, stating that “scores of countries continue to marginalize, criminalize and persecute LGBT+ populations … I feel that every opportunity to stand up for what we believe in is a good opportunity to shift the conversation on a global scale.”
Branson’s conglomerate, Virgin Group, is also counted among the signees of the Open for Business coalition, a group of companies committed to workplace diversity and inclusion alongside expressing concern “about the spread of anti-LGBT+ policies in many countries in which they operate.”
Bringing Pride to space in the name of one of the most traumatic events to affect the LGBTQ community in the U.S. brought much celebration, but Branson hasn’t commented on if he would offer financial support to organizations supporting Pulse shooting victims and their families.
My mission statement is to turn the dream of space travel into a reality – for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone.— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Watch the launch of the next space age at 6 am PT | 9 am ET | 2 pm BST on https://t.co/1313b4RAKI @virgingalactic #Unity22 pic.twitter.com/JpqXx8cy04
Richard Branson: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Aleksandr Andreiko/Creative Commons