This June marks the sixth year recognizing Pride month. In 2009, President Barack Obama proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
Many people mistakenly assume Pride month is about celebrating one’s sexual orientation. However, Pride Month is about turning back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.
June was selected as Pride month to commemorate the events of June 1969 known as the Stonewall riots — an event that lasted three days. Patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, resisted police harassment of the LGBT community. The popular gay bar had been frequently raided by police officers trying to “clean out the deviants.” The Stonewall riot is credited with launching the gay rights movement.
The struggle for civil rights in the LGBT community actually began much earlier. Dr. Frank E. Kameny fought for gay rights more than a decade before the Stonewall riots. Kameny served in World War II as a civil service employee — an astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service.
Kameny was fired because it was illegal to be gay and work for the federal government. Not only was Kameny released, but more than 10,000 gay and lesbian employees were forced out of their jobs during the 1950s and 1960s.
Kameny decided to sue and lost. He appealed and lost again. He brought the first civil rights action regarding sexual orientation to the Supreme Court of the United States arguing that the government’s actions toward gays were “an affront to human dignity.” The Supreme Court denied his petition, but this didn’t stop Kameny. He persevered and continued to fight for civil rights for 18 years, when the U.S. Civil Service Commission reversed its policies excluding homosexuals from government employment. Fifty years after he was fired, the U.S. Civil Service Commission issued Kameny a formal apology for being fired solely on the basis of his sexual orientation.
Just like the government as an entity, we as people all too often allow our own personal values and beliefs drive how we will react to another. If someone’s behaviors and actions do not line up with how we feel they should, then we can feel these people have infringed on our most deeply held principles. What we need to remember is that every person has a right to their own values, beliefs and morals. They may not line up with our own, and that’s ok. It doesn’t make one person more right or wrong than another – just different. Don’t use these differences as an excuse for bad or exclusive behavior.
Pride Month is not a celebration of sexual orientation. Pride month is about inclusion and treating all people with respect and dignity regardless of whether or not you approve of their lifestyle. Pride Month is about celebrating the works of Dr. Kameny and others like him, it’s about equality and fairness, and it’s about practicing ‘The Golden Rule.’ Treat others as you would want to be treated – especially when your values and beliefs do not match theirs.