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  • Hazel Montgomery-Walsh

Pride 2022: The Continuing Struggle for LGBTQ+ Rights

April marks the University of Maryland’s Pride month, as students will go home mid-May and will not be on campus during National Pride Month in June. Pride is a celebration of love and inclusion despite world and national legislative efforts that attack LGBTQ+ rights. Nonetheless, students on campus have expressed worried sentiments regarding recent bills such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill which passed in Florida, prohibiting schools from using curriculum that discusses gender and sexual orientaion. While Human Rights Officer at the United Nations, Fabrice Houdart, describes “a [global] proliferation of hate speech and human-rights abuses globally,” affecting LGBT people disproportionately, still there is hope in the Gen Z-ers who are prepared to act. This pride month, activists and allies alike will not back down. In the history of LGBTQ+ activism, they never have.

I remember attending my first pride parade with my, what-he-called-himself “Guncle” - short for Gay Uncle - in South Beach, Miami. As a 10-year-old, the sense of community, diversity, and love is what demonstrated safety and inclusion here in the United States. This pride month, citizens across the country will continue to uphold those sentiments, that love-is-love-is-love; however, the road to where LGBTQ+ rights are today has been complicated.

Black civil rights activists spearheaded the modern-day LGBTQ+ activism movement. Stemming in Supreme Court cases such as Brown V. Board of Education, Black civil rights activists such as Thurgood Marshall, Chief Attorney and head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund at the time, have led the cause for institutions of equality. The 14th Amendment which Marshall used to demand civil rights in this supreme court case was the same amendment used in the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same sex marriage. Highlighted in the public eye since the summer of May 2020 when George Floyd was murdered by police, the Black Lives Matter movement has always acklowledged how pride originated with Black activists.

During the Stonewall Riot of 1969, in which New York City police raided a gay club called the Stonewall Inn, LGBTQ+ people of color led the resistance. Among the activists who have prompted rights in United States history, Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, is considered to be the primary activist of this riot. The Marsha P. Johnson Memorial titles her as “the vanguard of the gay liberation movement in the United States.” Following the Stonewall Riot, Johnson was not only a successful drag queen but opened up an organization which helped homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Marsha helped establish a foundation of inclusion for the modern-day LGBTQ+ movement. In 1970, the year after the Stonewall Riot, the United States saw its first Pride parade in New York city.

For many college-age-students, the most recent changes in LGBTQ+ rights have stemmed from the transition of President Obama to President Trump. When Obama entered office, he repealed the 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” bill, which prevented LGBTQ+ military members from being open about their sexual identity. His administration also released a “guidance to schools on transgender students” in 2016 which mandated schools to protect transgender students from discrimination and facilitate inclusion of all identities. Then Trump entered the White House, creating what writer for National Public Radio, Selena Simmons-Duffin, describes as “whiplash”. National Public Radio’s chart, detailing the significant changes on LGBTQ+ rights from the Obama to Trump administrations, highlights just how drastic these changes were. In 2017, only weeks after entering office, Trump rescinded Obama’s guidance to schools on transgender students. He also made tweets claiming that transgender people should not serve in the military, creating a toxic environment for LGBTQ+ members across the United States.

Whether or not Trump is to blame for the most recent introductions of anti-gay legislation in select states across the U.S., following his presidency, state leaders have been making sweeping and drastic changes. Florida passed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, technically called the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, with supporters claiming that parents should have a say in what their students are taught. The bill bans instruction about gender and sexual orientation, described by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as a “hateful [bill] that hurt[s] some of the students most in need.” The harm of these bills passed have created a snowball effect. Permissing one such bill has inspired other states to consider legislation that would act in similar ways. States such as Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Ohio have been inspired and are currently in the process of drafting more discriminatory laws.

The Florida ACLU as well as the Biden administration have denounced recent actions to attack LGBTQ+ rights. Here at the University of Maryland, student activists and allies have celebrated an early pride month in April with events ranging from drag shows, to pride zumba, to pride prom, to the “Let’s Say Gay” parade. Upcoming in June, pride parades will take place in annual local Maryland areas, DC, and New York City. Internationally, pride parades are just as planned, just as colorful, and supporters are just as proud.


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