There was a march organized by civil rights organizations, religious groups, and labor unions, in August of 1963, and it was billed as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More than a quarter of a million people descended on Washington, D.C., in one of the biggest political rallies our nation’s capitol has ever seen. The participants were there to demand equality, and called for the same civil rights, and economic rights, that the caucasian majority took for granted.
On that hot and muggy summer day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and made his most famous speech “I Have A Dream.” He challenged the status quo, and the American people, with his soaring oratory. I remember being in a high school history class, when we were studying the civil rights movement, and our history teacher played a recording of the speech in class, when I heard it for the first time. The sentence that resonated with me most, and that I still think about today is this one:
I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Do people know that lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans want the same thing? What we do in our bedrooms isn’t anyone’s business, and we shouldn’t be judged because of who or how we love. We want to be judged by the content of our character, and we want the same opportunity to fulfill our own American dreams, that everyone else enjoys.
Our government oppresses us, and it’s shocking that they fail to recognize how we are oppressed. While gay couples can now be legally wed in 12 states, and there are 38 states where gay marriage is disallowed.
The federal government doesn’t recognize our relationships, but they collect our taxes. The federal government gives straight married couples 1,138 benefits, when gay married couples receive zero.
In 1974 there was a bill introduced in Congress called The Equality Act, which would have added sexual orientation as a protected class, covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil RIghts Act prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodation, and the legislation went nowhere.
In 1994, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in Congress, and has been introduced every legislative session since (with the exception of 2005-2006). The legislation passed in the House in 2007, without a provision for gender identity, and died in the Senate. There’s been no movement on the legislation since then.
Why is this legislation important? Because in in 29 states, there’s no state law protecting lesbian, gay or bisexual people from being fired just because of who we are, and the same is true in 34 states for transgender people.
LGBT people regularly experience discrimination, and verbal and physical assaults, because of our sexual orientation. We experience a high incidence of being victims of bullying as adolescents, and experience employment discrimination as adults.
Changing our laws won’t impact our culture immediately, but it will inspire those who are bullied and discriminated against, to stand a little taller, and smile a little wider, with the confidence that they too can pursue their dreams.
We’re taught in grammar school that everyone is created equal, and yet we learn as we grow up, that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. It’s a noble idea that we continue to fight for, because equality remains an elusive dream for many.
Today is June 1st, 2013 and marks the first day of lesbian, gay, bisexual. and transgender pride month.
Many people outside of the LGBT community wonder why we bother. Some people mock us, and say they’re celebrating heterosexual pride, or straight pride, which is insulting. When someone promotes “straight pride” it’s akin to endorsing “white pride.” Straight people haven’t been systematically denied their rights, or been murdered, beaten, persecuted, or harmed, because of their sexuality. Gay people experience that every day.
In President Obama’s proclamation declaring June 2012 as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month, he wrote:
Let us pay tribute to those who came before us, and those who continue their work today; and let us rededicate ourselves to a task that is unending ‑‑ the pursuit of a Nation where all are equal, and all have the full and unfettered opportunity to pursue happiness and live openly and freely.
We want to be treated equally, and we want to live openly and freely. We want to be able to work, and we want to be happy. Is that unrealistic? Is that too much to ask or expect of our families, friends and neighbors? Is that a concept that some religious leaders, and politicians, don’t understand or want to comprehend?
We celebrate pride for us, because it’s an opportunity for us to celebrate who we are, and who we love. We have a huge party for our community, and for our self-selected LGBT families, without fear, because we’re with our tribe.
We celebrate with humor, and we celebrate with music and dance, and we honor the memory of those who came before us, and we wildly applaud our friends and family and the wonderful people who march in the parades. Our visibility is important, because we have a responsibility to teach and inspire others, especially those who are just discovering who they are.
We celebrate proudly, and we exude love and pride, despite the fact that our nation is filled with haters. We don’t allow that negative energy to detract or diminish the love we have for each other, because our capacity to love lasts forever.
At the end of the day it's all about the freedom to love, and who can argue with that?
Happy lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month!
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