From Stonewall to Trump – the resurgence of a movement

In 1968, protests were sweeping across the country and a cultural revolution was in the making. In record numbers, streets were filling with people demanding change. They were standing up against an unjust war, insisting on gender equality and calling for an end to racial discrimination.

At the same time, another civil rights issue was brewing. Just a few years earlier in 1966, the New York City chapter of the Mattachine Society— one of the first gay rights organizations—decided to challenge the New York Liquor Authority’s regulation against serving alcohol to gay people. Borrowing a tactic from the civil rights movement, the chapter staged a “sip-in” at Julius, a Greenwich bar. That same year in San Francisco, a riot broke out when a police officer attempted to throw a drag queen out of the Gene Compton cafeteria. She retaliated by throwing coffee in his face.

Then it happened. In June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn kicking off three days of protests. This would be a defining moment in what would become the next civil rights movement to sweep the country.  One year later, the first gay pride marches were held to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Keep in mind, in 1968 homosexuals were labeled deviants who were mentally ill, and you could be arrested for holding your partner’s hand.

Today, June is recognized as Pride Month with marches and celebrations happening in cities around the world. As we celebrate Pride Month, we should reflect on how far we’ve come over the past 50 years, but we must also acknowledge there is so much more work to be done. And, let’s face it – the Trump administration is a huge threat to the LGBTQ community.

While Trump himself is somewhat vague about his positions on LGBTQ issues, he ran for office on one of the most anti-gay platforms in history. Let’s not forget who stands a heartbeat away from the presidency. Then Governor, Mike Pence, signed Indiana’s religious freedom bill which essentially allowed state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ people. The backlash was loud and strong. Even NASCAR came out and said it would not participate in exclusion or intolerance.

It’s probably safe to say Trump and his coalition of supporters won’t have any success reversing the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in favor of marriage equality – even though Trump himself said he would consider overturning the decision during the presidential primaries.  It’s also unlikely the Trump regime will have any success in reversing the right for LGBTQ Americans to serve openly in the military.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed with wide support in 2010 and since then there have been few calls to reinstate it.

That doesn’t mean LGBTQ rights are not in jeopardy. In July 2017, to the surprise of many, Trump tweeted transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity.” Even Senator John McCain came to the defense of the more than 15,000 transgender people serving our country. Many saw this discriminatory policy as an attempt by Trump to ratchet up the culture war and pander to his die-hard base.

Trump knows his only chance of survival is to keep his base happy. And, that means every now and then throwing them some red meat. Let’s be real. The Trump-Pence base is made up of supporters who have been trying to change the trajectory of the LGBTQ civil rights movement and they will certainly continue to take advantage of this opportunity.

Despite these disheartening developments, I was encouraged by the recent news that more LGBTQ candidates are running for office during the 2018 mid-terms than ever before. The governor of Texas, a U.S. congresswoman from Massachusetts and a U.S. Senator for Delaware.  These are just three of the more than 400 LGBTQ candidates the Victory Institute has identified running for office this election cycle.

It’s clear Trump’s victory has sparked another movement.  Like in 1968, diverse communities are organizing. People are coming out in record numbers to march for equality and civil rights.  From the “#MeToo” movement to Black Lives Matter and most recently “March for Our Lives,” we’re seeing a resurgence of voices rising to say enough is enough.

As we celebrate Pride Month, ask yourself: how will you show your support for our country’s rich diversity?  How will you stand up for inclusion?  How will you support the growing movement to demand equality for all?