June 6, 2012 | by Peter Rosenstein
Take pride in yourself and vote

The annual Pride celebrations have turned into one big party and often those parties are for the young, or at least the young at heart. What were once mostly political events have become parades and festivals with cheering and drinking; we often forget the political implications of how they began. The reason for that is the progress the LGBT community has made in the last 35 years toward winning our rights.

But this year, more than in recent years, while we party and celebrate our successes we must be political again. In less than five months we will have what could be the seminal election of our time for our community. We have never been so close to achieving the goals that those at Stonewall were willing to fight for.

As we march and party and celebrate the achievements of the last few years, including winning marriage equality in six states and the District of Columbia; repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and other gains, we are faced with a Republican Party whose candidate for president — along with many of their congressional candidates — have sworn to do everything in their power to turn back the clock and try to bring back the days when most of us had to be in the closet just to survive.

There will be hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people coming to Pride celebrations in cities across the nation this June. This year we must make sure that they all come out again in November to vote. Maybe we need to plan a second Pride celebration in each city and town across America for Election Day, Nov. 6.

We know that this election will be won or lost based on who can get their voters to the polls. If the LGBT community intends to move forward and we truly won’t accept anything less than our full civil and human rights, we must act now. While not everyone can afford to give money, or is comfortable coming to meetings or speaking out, there is one thing we can all do and that is to vote.

The ballot box is one place where everyone can speak out. It doesn’t cost money and no one else knows how you are voting. Each and every one of us needs to make a personal commitment to ourselves, to those we love and to future generations to use the civil right we do have and VOTE on Nov. 6. That is what Pride is really about and this year more than ever each of us must feel that pride within ourselves.

As a community we can come together and fight for marriage equality, passage of ENDA, the right to adopt and to live our lives fully. We need to thank those that make that fight public each day. But if each of us doesn’t exercise our civil right to vote we could lose all the other rights we have fought for.

Pride this year needs to be about a commitment to ensure that every person who isn’t already registered walks away with a voter registration card, fills it out and sends it in to the Board of Elections. It is about a commitment to see that the next president of the United States, and the members of the Senate, will nominate and confirm Supreme Court Justices who vote to uphold our civil and human rights. It needs to be about a vote for a president and a Congress who pledge to move toward full civil and human rights for the LGBT community, rather than electing those that have pledged to turn back the clock.

This election needs to be about us. And the “us” being not only the LGBT community but all minorities who believe that this country was founded on the backs of immigrants with a commitment to give us all an equal chance to live full and productive lives and the opportunities to succeed.

This year LGBT Pride must be about our commitment to stand up to the bigots and the homophobes and declare, whether we do it silently at the ballot box, or out loud on the streets, that the time for America to fulfill its promise and to grant us our full civil and human rights is now.

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