In-Depth: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights — reintroduced this resolution from the 115th Congress for a third time (he first introduced it in 2017, as discussed below) to highlight the contributions LGBTQ individuals have made to American society, note several major milestones in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQ Americans and continue efforts to achieve full equality for LGBTQ individuals. Sen. Brown first introduced this resolution in June 2017, after President Trump broke the eight-year tradition (set by the Obama administration) of offering an official presidential proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month:
“We must continue standing with our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors – not just during the month of June, but year round. I hope all Americans will join me in celebrating the accomplishments and courage of the LGBTQ community, and commit themselves to continuing the fight for equality for all.”
In an interview with LGBTQ Nation in June 2019, Sen. Brown argued that the Trump administration’s silence during Pride month is only part of Republicans’ overall hostility towards the LGBTQ community:
“You start with the fact the president of the United States is a bigot. Period. Clearly politicians in Washington like Trump, like most Republicans in the House and Senate, are on the wrong side of history. Many if them know it. They continue to play to their reactionary base. They keep playing to the hate in the Republican party.”
However, at the same time, Sen. Brown noted in the LGBTQ Nation interview that he’s seen his Congressional colleagues evolve on LGBTQ rights thanks to becoming more educated and having discussions within their own families:
“I’ve watched my colleagues in the House and Senate change their views because they became educated. They changed their views because they have gay people working in their office. They changed their views because they have LGBTQ relatives. They changed their view because they have LGBTQ contributors. They changed their views because they opened their eyes to the contributions LGBTQ Americans make to our country. A lot of these senators have grandchildren. Their grandchildren shake their heads. ‘Because you have some bigots in your state, you did what?’ they say.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) expressed its support for this bill when it was introduced in 2017. At that time, its Government Affairs Director, David Stacy, said:
“Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate the history, progress, diversity, and contributions of the LGBTQ community. And with 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans living in states without state non-discrimination laws, leaving them at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service simply because of who they are, it's is also an important time for the community to unite together with our allies and recommit to the progress we have yet to achieve. We thank Senator Brown for his leadership on this resolution that lifts up the importance of Pride Month.”
This resolution has 46 cosponsors, including 44 Democrats and two Independents. In the 115th Congress, it had 32 cosponsors, including 31 Democrats and one Independent, and didn’t see committee action.
In 2017, this bill had the support of Equality Ohio, Equitas Health and the Human Rights Campaign.
Of Note: LGBTQ Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the U.S. Gay Liberation Movement, as it was the first time that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as a group forcefully and vocally asserted their rights to equality under the law.
In New York City, the LGBTQ community was historically subjected to civil laws allowing bars to refuse service to LGBT patrons. Therefore, assets, harassment and police entrapment were frequent and reinforced by civil laws. Established often cited Section 106, Subsection 6 of the New York State Penal Code, which barred premises from becoming “disorderly houses,” to refuse service to LGBTQ patrons. Many — including the courts — considered LGBTQ patrons to be disorderly and therefore subject to refusal of service under the law.
At the same time, homosexuality — or “sodomy” as it was legally referred to — was still a crime. Men could be arrested for wearing drag, and women faced the same punishment if found wearing less than three pieces of “feminine clothing.”
The Stonewall Inn was one establishment where LGBTQ patrons found refuge from these discriminatory laws. When police raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests when the Inn’s 200 patron’s resisted, then rioted. There were reports of stilettos, bottles, bricks and debris thrown. The altercation spilled into the streets, and more LGBT street youth joined the uprising. As word spread, LGBTQ people from surrounding neighborhoods joined the riot. Ultimately, the rebellion, which lasted six days, marked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement and became known as the “Stonewall riots.”
On the Stonewall riots’ one-week anniversary, there was a gay march. On the one-year anniversary, New York City’s first gay pride march was held (and similar marches were also held in other cities). A mere year after Stonewall, a committee was formed to commemorate the riots. For a while, the committee considered “gay power” as the slogan for the Stonewall commemorative events, but when committee member L. Craig Schoomaker suggested “gay pride,” everyone agreed on the phrase right away. In a 2015 interview with The Allusionist’s Helen Zaltzman, Schoomaker explained, “People did not have power then; even now, we only have some. But anyone can have pride in themselves, and that would make them happier as people, and produce the movement likely to produce change."
The rainbow flag came to represent the concept of gay pride in 1978, when artist Gilbert Baker created the first rainbow flag for a San Francisco march organized by Harvey Milk. Baker’s version had eight stripes instead of the six that the flag has today, and he intended each stripe to represent an aspect of the gay identity: "hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.” Before then, the pink triangle had symbolized the LGBTQ community. However, since it’d been used in Nazi Germany to mark “sexual deviants” in concentration camps, many people believed the triangle wasn’t hopeful enough or even appropriate. Today, rainbow flags are the most common symbol at Pride parades, and parade goers often wear bright clothes incorporating as many colors as possible.
Originally, Pride was solely a political demonstration to voice LGBTQ demands for equal rights and protections. It wasn’t until 1991 that Pride began to resemble its current incarnation as a celebration of queer life and sexuality as well as a political and social demonstration.
Today, celebrations in June include include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts. Cumulatively, LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of particpants around the world. Many Pride events still occur on the last Sunday in June to commemorate Stonewall’s anniversary.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Circle Creative Studio)