Each June the LGBTQ Community celebrates Pride Month as a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. During this time is was legal to raid restaurants, bars, and hotels who served gay customers or who hired gay employees. Many bars and clubs in NY City’s Greenwich Village (a haven for the community) were ran by the mafia who bought police corroboration; but on June 27-28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn and created a tipping point for the LGBTQ’s tolerance for social and legal harassment, abuse, and blackmail schemes. The crowd began fighting back when the raid turned violent. Eventually, the police retreated and barricaded themselves inside the Stonewall waiting for further backup! While discriminatory abuse and legal bias did not begin or end at Stonewall, the spirit of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement of the 1970’s gave the LGBTQ a sense of community and strength. One year after the riots, the first Gay Pride Parade was organized by several hundred people in a march up 6th Avenue to Central Park and gained traction as supporters began joining the few at every block and the procession eventually reached 15 blocks long and included thousands of supporters.
Pride Week is much more than just an opportunity to be “festive and fierce”—it is the LGBTQ’s acknowledgement of its community’s strength, worth, and normalcy. It has driven legal changes and social awareness which provides equal rights and protections to an American community ostracized simply because of who they love. Pride Week celebrates Supreme Court landmark rulings from 1996 – 2020 such as the invalidating of state laws which banned protections based on sexuality, struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, made same-sex marriage legal, and prohibited employment discrimination against LGBTQ employees. In 2010, the U.S. Courts won against the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which, as a compromise, only made it illegal to be “out” while on Active Duty in the military (remaining closeted was acceptable)—but a conviction could lead to a dishonorable discharge and a felony on one’s record.
While the U.S. still has some growing to do in terms of fulfilling our constitutional promise of “all men being created equal”—it is the collective voices and uprisings against oppressive systems which will lead us all to finally be able to enjoy the Land of the Free in our individual pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness. And we in the LGBTQ Community stand with all who have had to fight for their rightful places in the lights of equality—and for that, we celebrate our Pride! MIL is proud to support our LGBTQ employees and their families and stands proudly against all forms of structural racism, discrimination, and systemic intolerance.
Our guest blogger, Rebecca Helms, has been with MIL since 2015 and is an openly gay/lesbian who served in the military before and during the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era.”