Pride remains a time to celebrate LGBTQ progress, visibility and history, but it’s also important to remember that even in 2018 the road to full equality remains filled with obstacles.
At the risk of sounding like SNL’s buzz kill Debbie Downer, let’s review where things stand before we head out for the parades and parties.
Just a year ago, outrage at the Trump administration was so intense that Pride celebrations across the country morphed into Resist marches. Thousands protested Trump’s attacks on the LGBTQ community. And those marches were held under the cloud of the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre that killed 49 mostly LGBTQ people in 2016.
Not much has changed in the past year. Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis continue to pursue a misguided and hateful ban on transgender service members, despite opposition from courts. Trump has taken executive actions in the name of “religious freedom” that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination and the Justice Department announced a decision to exclude LGBT people from enforcement of federal civil rights law, as the Blade reported. For the second consecutive year, President Trump declined to issue a proclamation recognizing June as Pride month and none of his Cabinet secretaries was expected to speak at any of the agency Pride observations, in stark contrast to the Obama years. Things are so bad at the Pentagon that DOD won’t even acknowledge Pride month for the first time since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Many LGBT sources at the federal agencies are afraid to even talk to the Blade on the record about Pride plans.
The State Department, meanwhile, issued a statement recognizing Pride month, even though its new leader, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has a long anti-LGBTQ record and has described gay sex as a perversion.
In other recent developments:
• A group of 127 House Democrats is calling on the White House to keep intact an Obama-era rule barring medical providers from denying health care to transgender patients.
• A coalition of HIV organizations is asking insurance commissioners and attorneys general in all 50 states and D.C. to investigate a practice they say is being adopted by health insurers that’s resulting in excessively high out-of-pocket costs for AIDS and Hepatitis C drugs.
• The Department of Health & Human Services disclosed plans to eliminate a question allowing elders to identity as LGBT on the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants.
• Kansas and Oklahoma enacted anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation enabling taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny placement into LGBT homes.
• A gay U.S. Army chaplain is fighting the deportation of his immigrant husband.
• Tony Perkins, head of an anti-LGBT hate group, was named by Trump to a two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
• References to LGBT programs and resources have been stripped from government websites across agencies.
• A trans woman died in ICE custody after she was unable to obtain HIV/AIDS medication.
• The Supreme Court this week ruled narrowly in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which wants to discriminate against same-sex customers. It wasn’t the sweeping ruling in favor of so-called “religious freedom,” but if Trump gets to appoint Anthony Kennedy’s successor, then all bets are off.
And all of that has happened in just the last month. Locally, the Blade has covered similarly bad news.
• In D.C., there have been three violent hate crime attacks reported on gay men since April. Some victims have been reluctant to speak out or even to report the attacks to police. It’s imperative that victims report these crimes so the community can take precautions and so police can better do their jobs.
• In nearby Delaware, a proposal that would have allowed students to self-identify their gender without parents’ approval was gutted in response to a national campaign led by anti-transgender forces.
• And in Baltimore, two weeks before Pride, Mayor Pugh’s administration has no LGBT liaison and no functioning LGBT commission, as reported by Baltimore Brew.
So as we celebrate our many advances, let’s remember that not all are so fortunate. The situation for LGBTQ immigrants remains dire. Our youth suffer disproportionately from homelessness and bullying. And all of our many gains are at risk under an increasingly authoritarian president who will stop at nothing to line his pockets at the expense of the rule of law. The resistance must continue until Nov. 6.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.