Photos credit: J.L. Sousa, Register - Ian Stanley, director of LGBTQ Connection, stands near the Welcome to Napa sign near Napa State Hospital. LGBTQ Connection recently had its logo plaques installed on two of the signs at the city’s southern entry.

Under a wide, trellised panel of dark wood, between two bunches of grapes, the words “WELCOME TO NAPA” greet those driving into the city. Below those words are the logos of more than a dozen community groups: the toothed wheel of the Rotary club, the blue-and-gold circle-L of the Lions, twin green silhouettes on the Girl Scouts seal.

Now, two signs at the city limits carry one more plaque—for a group whose leader scarcely hoped for such visibility less than a decade ago.

LGBTQ Connection, the support and advocacy agency for Napa County’s gay and lesbian community, posted a photograph Sunday on Twitter showing its new, rainbow-hued placard for the welcome signs – one on the Napa-Vallejo Highway south of Napa State Hospital, the other at Highway 29 near the Highway 12/121 crossing.

If the wooden panels are meant to make outsiders feel like guests in Napa, their newest placards are a step toward helping gay Napans – and LGBT visitors – feel less like outsiders, according to LGBTQ Connection’s executive director.

“A lot of folks who are LGBT who live in Napa or visit Napa, even in spite of the progress we’ve made, feel invisible here,” said Ian Stanley. “LGBT people are often pretty disconnected from each other, and having those letters on the ‘Welcome to Napa’ means even more than announcing this group exists; it’s saying that they’re welcome in Napa, and that it’s something we’re visibly proud to say.”

The “Welcome to Napa” displays have long been a constant to Stanley, who came to the city with his family in 1984. But it was not until September that the the advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Napans began talks with the Kiwanis Club of Napa, which is overseeing upkeep of the displays, about placing its name along those of more famous and well-established entities, he recalled.

“I’ve dreamed of doing this; visibility is important and it’s great for any number of reasons to have them up,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve been trying to find ways to do this for the last year.”

Along with the signs came donations to cover the cost, including gifts from former Napa Vice Mayor Mary Luros, a Kiwanian, and American Canyon Councilwoman Belia Ramos. Each woman is donating $150 to cover the plaques’ $300 costs, according to Ramos, who will join the Napa County Board of Supervisors next month.

“I’m happy to have a display that shows we are inclusive community and that reflects the kind of community we have,” she said.

Original version from Napa Valley Register: http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/napa-s-welcome-signs-give-new-visibility-for-gay-rights/article_3d5a2f19-2ea8-51e0-a29a-c00e12a33439.html