|The Slow and Painful Progress of Gay Rights
For the first time in its history, the rainbow flag is being flown over the Wisconsin Capitol. Progress?
Democratic Governor Tony Evers ordered the flag to fly over the Capitol and other government buildings during Pride Month. Evers stated
that doing so sends a “clear and unequivocal message “ that the state is a welcoming and inclusive place for gay folks.
I think most of us know that it takes more than a flying flag to guarantee the rights and safety of those identified as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual,
transgendered, queer/questioning, intersex/intergender and anonymous (LGBTQIA).
June 28 is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. That’s when gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn got sick and tired of being sick and
tired of police harassment and assaults. The police raid that night resulted in violent clashes between gays and police, followed by several
days of protests in Greenwich Village. The protests spread locally and globally. A movement was born.
At the time of Stonewall, homosexuality was a crime. Gay sex was illegal in every state except Illinois. Homosexuality was a crime with
plenty of punishment such as jail, losing your job or your housing. Gay folks were often ostracized by their own families. Media outlets
seldom used the terms gay or homosexuality.
by Jamala Rogers
Homosexuality was also thought to be a mental disorder. No doubt
many gay people developed mental health issues given the level of
discrimination, contempt and physical attacks they faced. They were
not just second-class citizens; they might as well have been lepers
needing to be colonized lest their disease spread.
Since Stonewall, there have been significant advances for the
LGBTQIA community. Same-sex marriages, anti-discrimination laws
in public accommodations, employment and housing. Gay people can
serve in the U.S. military.
Wisconsin has been a leader in the advancement and protection of gay
rights. It was one of the first states to ban discrimination based on
sexual orientation in 1982. (It’s still working on gender identity.) It
was the first state to have a gay U.S. Senator, Democrat Tammy
Baldwin. Most Wisconsinites support same-sex marriage.
The progress to date should allow gays to be their full selves in public
or not. But just like with racial discrimination, people’s attitudes and
beliefs never quite catch up with the laws and policies. And just like
racial biases, full citizenship is always subject to the political and
religious winds. People can still be fired in 26 states for being gay.
President trump has played a major role in trying to turn back the
hands of time. His homophobic spews have caused hate crimes
among the LFBTQIA to increase dramatically especially among Black
transgendered persons. He reversed the military policy on trans beings
earlier this year.
Fifty years since Stonewall, there is much to celebrate. Those of us
who believe in freedom for all can’t sit on our laurels. There is still a
lot of work to do.