by Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA
A Pride Primer: June is International LGBT Pride month, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969. That event is celebrated as the beginning of the modern movement for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, was a gay nightclub. But in 1969, it was illegal to dance with someone of your own gender, and it was illegal for a club to serve an LGBT clientele. The police often raided gay nightclubs, arrested patrons, published their names, and frequently beat them while in custody. Finally, on June 27, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused to accept the police brutality and resisted arrest. That resistance sparked a mass phase of political organization for gay rights.
We’ve come a long way in some respects. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the military rule that resulted in tens of thousands of soldiers being involuntarily discharged simply for being lesbian or gay has been repealed, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional by several federal circuit courts and is headed to the Supreme court, five states and the District of Columbia have Marriage Equality Laws, and Washington state and Maryland passed marriage equality laws this year, though opponents, funded largely by out-of-state money, have forced these laws onto the November ballot.
In the United Church of Christ (UCC), we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. Bill Johnson, the first openly gay person ordained in the UCC. Rev. Johnson was also one of the founding members of the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns (The Coalition). The Coalition administers the Open and Affirming (ONA) movement whereby churches publicly declare themselves welcoming to all LGBT people after undergoing a period of congregational discernment. You can learn more about their work, read their newsletter, and make a donation at www.ucccoalition.org.
You can celebrate by marching in Pride parades in Boise, ID on June 16 or Portland, OR on June 17. You can volunteer to table at Pride festivals in Boise and Portland or Vancouver, WA on July 14,Salem, OR on August 5, Eugene, OR on August 11 or Lincoln City, OR September 6-9.
Then, after celebrating, you can get back to the urgent work of battling homophobia and transphobia, because youth perceived as gay or gender-nonconforming are still being bullied to death. Because hundreds of parents continue to disown their gay or lesbian teens because their church tells them to. Because the children of gay and lesbian couples don’t have the protections they need in most states. Because gay and lesbian workers don’t have employment protection in most states.
We need to extend our extravagant welcome beyond the church doors, beyond the Pride festivals and into our neighborhoods, our work places, and our schools. We need to be the ones who speak out in groups when others are using biased language. We must say that as persons of faith, we will not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation. We have much to take pride in and much work left to do.
“To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation is for me as totally unacceptable and unjust as Apartheid ever was.” ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu