As we near the end of Pride Month, we are taking a moment to reflect on LGBTQ+ equality past and present.
Pride Month is still not officially recognized internationally, but it is an important time of remembrance and celebration for the LGBTQ+ community all over the world.
While Pride celebrations began long ago, the 1969 Stonewall Uprising was a turning point for the LGBTQ+ movement, especially in the United States. This uprising was in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Back then, police harassment of gay and lesbian bars was extremely common, but one night in 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn had finally had enough. The resulting demonstrations, led by LGBTQ+ activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, numbered in the thousands of supporters and marked the genesis of the modern Pride movement in the United States.
Over half a century later, LGBTQ+ Americans are still fighting for full equality, and each year June brings marches, parades and all manner of celebration across the nation.
In Indiana, the path to LGBTQ+ equality has been particularly rocky. As recently as 2014, the General Assembly voted to ban same-sex marriages. Just one year later, the now infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was signed into law by then-governor Mike Pence, which allowed for state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ+ Hoosiers under the guise of “religious freedom”. It even took the legislature four whole years to finally pass a hate crimes law, and even after all that, transgender individuals are still left without protection under this law.
Despite this, there has been a lot of progress since Stonewall. In 2015, after decades of state-level bans of same-sex marriages, the United States Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage, and just last week the Supreme Court ruled once and for all, that the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
All 50 states have now elected openly LGBTQ+ people to political offices, including two United States Senators, nearly a dozen House Representatives, one governor and dozens more state legislators, including our very own State Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) who was the first (and currently only) LGBTQ+ member of the Indiana General Assembly.
No LGBTQ+ person has ever held the office of President, Vice President or Supreme Court Justice, but just last year, Indiana’s own Pete Buttigieg became the first openly LGBTQ+ person to launch a major presidential campaign.
Equality for our LGBTQ+ community has been a long, difficult road, and the fight is far from over. Our Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus is committed to continuing to stand up for equality and eventually equity for LGBTQ+ Hoosiers in every way possible, including but not limited to:
- Pushing to end health care discrimination against transgender individuals
- Banning housing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community
- Addressing the alarming rates of violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color
- Finally passing a comprehensive and fully-inclusive hate crimes bill
We cannot win this fight alone. We must build on the work of those before us on the long march towards justice, equality and equity. We must learn to accept and embrace the fact that our differences make us stronger.
As always, we urge everyone, especially members of the LGBTQ+ community, to get involved in the political process. In the words of the late Harvey Milk, “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”