Lesbian Notions - If It’s June, It’s Got To Be Pride
It’s gay, it’s gay, June’s the pride-filled month to play... I’m trying to channel my inner gay man and rewrite some lyrics from Camelot to help celebrate Pride.
OK, I’ll keep my day job.
But it is June - the month we get to unabashedly celebrate the pride we have in being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Halfway through 2007, we have plenty to celebrate.
The 2006 sea change in Washington, D.C., has given pro-LGBT state and local elected officials the support they need to do the right thing - protect us from discrimination. Let’s take a short tour around the country, shall we?
On the last day of May, in Philadelphia, the City Council voted to terminate the 1928 ordinance that granted the Boy Scouts’ Cradle of Liberty Council rent-free use of a public building. The measure gave the Boy Scouts the option of either changing their practice of excluding gay scouts and leaders or paying fair-market rent for the use of the building.
The City Council members who voted for the bill were backed up by Equality Advocates Pennsylvania and a group of concerned citizens. Stacey Sobel, Equality Advocates’ executive director, praised the Council for its “strong stand against sexual orientation discrimination.” She went on to say that Boy Scout programs have value to some young people. “They, however, should not be able to use taxpayers’ dollars to discriminate against others.”
While the Philadelphia City Council took its action, a group of Georgia PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) parents were taking on the national Boy Scouts at the BSA’s annual meeting May 30 and 31 in Atlanta.
While I don’t expect the Boy Scouts to change their tune, I think it’s great that a group of Southern parents with gay children is willing to stand up and challenge their policies.
Three states took major steps forward in protecting us and our families. New Hampshire’s governor recently signed a civil union law for same-sex couples, granting them all of the rights and responsibilities afforded to that state’s straight married couples.
When the law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2008, New Hampshire will join California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont in offering broad protections for same-sex couples. It’s not marriage, but it’s better than nothing.
I love the fact that four of New York’s five border states - Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey - give same-sex couples legal recognition. We’re surrounded. I don’t expect Pennsylvania to act before we do. But with Eliot Spitzer as the only sitting governor to ever introduce same-sex marriage legislation, my partner and I may be walking down the aisle before we’re older and grayer.
LGBT people in Iowa - yes, Iowa - are now protected from employment, public accommodation, housing, education, and credit-practices discrimination. When Governor Chet Culver (D) signed the legislation, he said his action sends “a message that Iowa is a welcoming place that values each of its citizens, whether it’s in the neighborhood or the workplace. We send a message that intolerance and discrimination have no place in our state.”
Iowa joins Colorado and Oregon, both of which moved to protect LGBT people this year as well.
There’s also movement south of the Mason-Dixon line. The North Carolina House of Representatives approved the School Violence Prevention Act - a bill requiring public schools to adopt anti-bullying policies that include protections for LGBT students. While the bill still needs to get through the state Senate and then be signed by the governor before becoming law, the simple fact that it passed in one house in a state that has traditionally turned its back on us is a reason to celebrate.
Go a bit further south and west, and just about the time you read this column Dallas may have a gay mayor. Openly gay city councilman Ed Oakley will face former Turner Construction CEO Tom Leppert in a runoff mayoral election on June 16. Oakley has been endorsed by local, state, and national LGBT organizations, but maybe more significant is the support of the Dallas Police Association.
Oakley’s other strategic advantage is that Dallas is going Democratic. Last November, as the Democrats took the U.S. House and Senate, they also won 47 local offices, many of which were previously held for years by Republicans.
The city’s business community also recognizes the strength of the gay dollar. The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau’s LGBT website touts the city as the most liberal in Texas, with its “sissy drag queens and strapping gay rodeo champs.”
All this good news is enough to make you two-step through June.
Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com