June 22, 2020 In the News

Ryan Richman: Pride Month marks freedom from oppression

Union Leader
By Ryan Richman
June 22, 2020

June is Pride Month in New Hampshire and across the globe. While our celebrations will look different than we ever imagined, there’s much to be proud of — and much left to fight for, especially at the ballot box.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, where police attacked a safe space for the gay community and brave people, led by queer people of color, fought back, helping launch the movement for LGBTQ+ equality. The same year as Stonewall 50, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act to prohibit anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination; we saw more queer representation on television than ever before; and we witnessed a “Rainbow Wave 2.0,” where nearly 100 LGBTQ+ candidates swept state and local legislature races across the nation, including historic wins for transgender women. This is the kind of progress that is so desperately needed.

We have fought for decades to get to where we are today. The progress we have made was brought about by activists, community members, voters, and elected leaders who have worked for change. I am grateful for those leaders who are pushing for stronger, more inclusive policies and are making a difference for the LGBTQ+ community in New Hampshire. Just a few decades ago, New Hampshire was much less welcoming for the LGBTQ+ part of the human family than it is today.

For too long, employment, housing, and service discrimination based on sexual orientation was legal in our Granite State. In 1997, in her first term as governor, Jeanne Shaheen signed a law banning that discrimination based on sexual orientation, making New Hampshire one of the earliest states to do so. The following year, Shaheen repealed a state law that prohibited gay and lesbian individuals from adopting or serving as foster parents. She stood up for our community by rolling back laws that hurt LGBTQ+ people and families, and stood with our community by being the first governor in our state’s history to establish a Pride Day each June.

Now, as our U.S. Senator, Jeanne Shaheen continues to be one of our strongest allies in Congress. In the Senate, she has led legislation to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in federal courts and to ensure that LGBTQ+ spouses of our military veterans had equal rights before marriage equality became the law of the land. She helped repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and, as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has fought Trump’s hateful ban of transgender service members.

As a teacher of seventeen years, an involved member of the labor movement, and the Chair of New Hampshire Stonewall Democrats, I have spent my life working for progressive change. There is more to do.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and his administration are hellbent on denying the human rights of our community. They have banned transgender troops from serving in the military, codified discrimination into law, and appointed judges, justices, and officials who adamantly oppose LGBTQ+ human rights. We need a president, like Joe Biden, who recognizes the value of our community.

We also need a Congress that will actually act on bills like the Equality Act, which is co-sponsored by Senator Shaheen, to show the LGBTQ+ community that we don’t have to face discrimination. Although the House of Representatives passed it last year, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring the Equality Act, or any other pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, to the Senate floor. And Shaheen’s Republican opponents have already made it clear that they would stand with McConnell, instead of us. Corky Messner, the wealthy lawyer from Colorado who moved to New Hampshire last year to run for Senate, has attacked the transgender community, and Don Bolduc’s campaign refuses to say if he even supports marriage equality, which has been a basic human right for LGBTQ+ Americans since 2015.

Those who carried our movement from Stonewall to where it is today, from Marsha P. Johnson to Harvey Milk, put their safety and lives on the line so all of us could live authentically, be who we are, and prosper as liberated Americans. As we celebrate another year of Pride, we must recommit ourselves to that promise, and elect leaders who will protect LGBTQ+ rights and work alongside us for progressive change. There is much to celebrate, and everything is at stake. It is more vital now than ever that we not shrink away from the fight, but that we continue dedicating ourselves to standing up for each other. The symbol of Stonewall is fighting back against all oppression.