This Pride message is a guest post from Congressman Tim Ryan (OH13).
Every June since 1970, LGBTQ people and their allies from all walks of life have been gathering in cities across the country to celebrate Pride, including this weekend right here in Cleveland.
These parades, festivals, and celebrations are an annual commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which forever changed the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States.
It has now been 48 years since this historic event, and the United States is a very different place for LGBTQ Americans. Public attitudes for equality are at an all-time high. LGBTQ service members can now serve openly in the military. And, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges to allow same-sex couples to marry in Ohio and across the United States.
As social stigma has steadily melted away, more and more people have felt comfortable enough to come out and live the life they were meant to lead openly. This has led to a record number of LGBTQ people representing our country in the 2016 Summer Olympics and seven LGBTQ elected officials serving the American people in the United States Congress.
These are welcome positive changes, but we still have a long way to go towards realizing full LGBTQ equality in the United States of America.
Recent events have shown we need Pride now more than ever. In the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges, many state lawmakers have responded with a barrage of anti-LGBTQ bills attacking the adoption rights of same-sex couples, the right of transgender Americans to access restrooms, allowing workplace discrimination, and much more. The Human Rights Campaign has tracked the introduction of over 100 of these bills in the first half of 2017 alone.
Unfortunately, in addition to legal disenfranchisement, LGBTQ individuals face an elevated risk of physical attack. According to the New York Times, in 2014 nearly a fifth of the 5,462 single-bias hate crimes reported to the FBI were because of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. Transgender people, in particular transgender women of color, experience extraordinarily high levels of fatal violence. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 79% of the victims of hate-motivated fatal violence were people of color.
Just a few weeks ago, we joined with Americans across the country to reflect on the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We will never forget the heartbreaking images of friends lost and families torn apart. Likewise, we will never forget how people came together from all walks of life to help and to donate for the medical and other costs related to the shooting.
Pride Month is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to get involved, and it’s more important now than ever, because we do not have an ally in the White House, despite President Trump’s assertions that we do.
The Department of Justice and the Department of Education rescinded best-practice advice for how schools can best accommodate transgender children in schools. The Department of Justice has stopped defending in court a rule that prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender identity. And those are just two examples of administrative actions that may have a lasting, negative impact on LGBTQ Americans.
So, at Pride, between celebrating, take a look around and find the organizations that are fighting for equality. Sign up, get on their lists, add your name to petitions, and get involved. There’s no time like the present.
And it’s important to remember that work happens at the local level, too. Ohio is one of 28 states where it is generally legal to fire somebody just because they are gay, or to deny someone basic goods and services because they are transgender. That needs to change, and Congress needs to pass the Equality Act.
But in the meantime, Ohio cities are picking up the slack. Eighteen cities in Ohio have passed local ordinances to make discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression illegal. Those cities are Akron, Athens, Bexley, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Columbus, Coshocton, Dayton, East Cleveland, Lakewood, Newark, Olmsted Falls, Oxford, Toledo, Youngstown, and Yellow Springs.
Thank you for everything you do, and all your hard work. Together, we’ll make progress and keep pushing the world to treat everybody a little more fairly. That’s our mission, and that’s the goal.
Have a Happy Pride Month, Northeast Ohio!