CALARCO: Celebrating Pride Month


June 1 marks the beginning of LGBTQ Pride Month, a time generally accompanied by parades, festivals, and celebrations of the vast contributions and progress that this community has made throughout the last century.

The 1960s and decades prior were not safe or welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. It's hard to believe, but same-sex relations' solicitation was illegal in New York City, just a little over 60 years ago.

In response, these individuals flocked to gay bars and clubs, places of refuge where they could express themselves openly and socialize without worry. However, the Liquor Authority penalized and shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals, arguing that the mere gathering of LGBTQ+ people was "disorderly."

While Pride looks and sounds vastly different in the current day, it is essential to remember that the first Pride was a protest in response to the unjust treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in New York City.

The Stonewall riots, led largely by black transgender women like Marsha P. Johnson, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969. More commonly known as the Stonewall Uprising, these protests were a response to police raiding the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City.

The raid ignited a riot among patrons and residents in the area as law enforcement targeted and roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar. The six days that followed were violent and chaotic, but ultimately effective in furthering the rights of this marginalized community. The Stonewall riots are credited as the catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and worldwide.

On the first anniversary of Stonewall, thousands of people took to the streets. They marched from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park in what was then called "Christopher Street Liberation Day," America's first gay pride parade.

Flash-forward to 2015, when the issue of marriage equality was presented before the Supreme Court, after decades of activism, blood, sweat, and tears. The court ultimately ruled in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case.

Then, in 2016, President Barack Obama designated the site of the riots and the adjacent community a national monument in recognition of the area's contribution to gay rights.

While tremendous strides have been made in the furtherance of civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, we still have a lot of work to address the discrimination and inequities endured by this population. According to the FBI, hate crimes are rising nationwide, with 17 percent of these crimes aimed at LGBTQ+ persons. The FBI's hate crime statistics from 2016 to 2019 convey an increase from 1,076 to 1,195 incidents targeted based on sexual orientation.

The only way to address the scourge of hate that leads to these acts of violence is through outspoken condemnation of such actions by leaders, elected officials, and community members like yourselves. Together we can create a safer, more tolerant society for our children and their children to live in.

I am committed to supporting the LGBTQ+ community unequivocally, both throughout Pride Month and year-round. I hope that one day, all people will feel empowered and safe enough to live their lives authentically and without fear of retribution.

Happy Pride Month!


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