June is, according to gay rights organizers and Barack Obama himself, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.” It’s marked with numerous infamous celebrations, of course, featuring half-naked men, half-naked women, dancing, rainbow flags, glitter, and other shows of inappropriate behavior that I don’t particularly involve myself in while I’m in the public eye. That being said, however, this month is not all about parades, glitter, and free appletinis at Tavern on Camac.
The month is also about the ongoing struggle for equal rights in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Indeed, June’s designation as Pride Month is directly related to the Stonewall riots in June, 1969, in Manhattan. Those riots are generally believed to be the beginning of the modern movement for recognition and equality, so it’s a natural fit.
I live in a state where civil unions have been legalized; Delaware also borders Maryland, where gay marriage is legal, and New Jersey, where civil unions are also recognized. It’s legal in several other states, too, but not nearly enough. For a bigger picture of the current state of LGBT equality, see this Wikipedia map. It’s easy to get comfortable, especially when you live in a state that plays host to the top-ranked “gay beach” in the entire world, but there is really no time for comfort. There is a lot of work to be done.
Gay marriage is banned by statute, at the very least, in 42 states at the present time, and several more states are looking to ban it constitutionally in the upcoming electoral cycle. Similar legislation passed, banning all civil unions or domestic partnerships, in North Carolina last month. The federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to gay couples who are married in states where it is legal, remains on the books. Even as the Obama administration has stopped defending this bigoted law, Republicans in the House of Representatives have stepped in to defend it in U.S. courts where it is currently being challenged.
People still protest in the streets about the “sanctity” of marriage, and how gay marriage is counter to it. They still bully, beat up, and even kill people who are homosexual. People still conceive of the larger LGBT population as one of skewed values, where committed relationships are disfavored and a more salacious lifestyle is encouraged. They still say “that’s so gay” when they disapprove of something.
To get comfortable is to surrender to these realities. This is a human rights issue, not a state legislation issue. No matter how cushy it is to enjoy civil unions, anti-hate crime legislation, and employment equality laws here in Delaware and the surrounding states of the northeast, there are places where people are miserable, unequal, or dead, simply based on their sexual orientation.
Until that stops being the case, every parade during the month of June should be a momentary reminder that such obnoxious celebrations of sexuality are still permissible only among an exceedingly small majority of Americans. Outside of the northeast corridor, and east of California and the Pacific Northwest, such celebrations are egregious offenses attended by third-class citizens who risk their lives every time they show an ounce of pride in who they are.