Dear Fellow Marylanders:
Welcome to Pride Month, a time for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) community to rightly celebrate its progress and for all of us to reflect on how we can build a more tolerant, inclusive, supportive society.
This June marks 53 years since the attack on the Stonewall Inn, and 52 years since the first Pride parade was held in New York City. The Stonewall Riots are widely recognized as the catalyst for the resurgence of the fight for LGBTQI+ rights. And they were the first in a series of landmark events that would define the LGBTQI+ experience of the late 20th century. From the UpStairs Lounge arson attack to the devastating AIDS crisis, the community persevered through many harrowing ordeals. During this month, we recognize not only the struggles of the LGBTQI+ community, but the triumphs, both big and small.
Not nearly as well known, the UpStairs Lounge arson attack took place nearly four years after the Stonewall Riots, on June 24, 1973. Patrons of the New Orleans bar, which primarily served as a safe meeting space for blue-collar gay men, noticed a fire in the front stairwell just before 8 p.m. The fire spread rapidly, forcing patrons to flee to the rooftop and out the barred windows in order to escape. Unfortunately, this was not enough. Twenty-eight people lost their lives in the blaze, and four more succumbed to their injuries in the following days.
This horrendous act would go on to become the deadliest attack on the LGBTQI+ community until the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, which claimed the lives of 49 individuals. We did not need another example of the deadly consequences of and easy access to guns, but we received a disgusting reminder In Orlando. As the Senate again attempts to move forward with commonsense reforms that improve our nationwide safety from gun violence, let us never forget the senseless loss of life we saw that night in 2016.
It bears noting that both of these attacks took place during LGBTQI+ Pride Month, a month that celebrates love, acceptance, and community. We must do everything possible to ensure that these words do not ring hollow.
The celebration of Pride Month also allows members of the LGBTQI+ community to reassert their rights to openly be their true selves and say: ‘We are here. We are not going away.’
This message is especially important now, as the Supreme Court prepares to vote on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the decision that protects an individual’s right to privacy and control over their own bodies. Justice Samuel Alito’s reasoning in this argument, though not final, threatens an entire line of rights that the Court has inferred from the text of the Constitution over decades, including foundational protections for LGBTQI+ people such as marriage equality, established in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
I am an original cosponsor of the Equality Act (S. 393), which would safeguard and protect equal rights for LGBTQ individuals in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. I am also the lead sponsor of the resolution to eliminate the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would strengthen the constitutional foundation for pro-LGBTQI+ legislation like the Equality Act.
I strongly oppose action by the Supreme Court to take away the rights of Americans by overturning Roe or Obergefell, or other cases like Griswold v. Connecticut, which guarantees the right of families to have access to contraception and family planning. While I am proud that Maryland has state-level protections in place to preserve the sanctity of same-sex marriage should these rights come under threat at a federal level, such fundamental rights must be respected at the national level. As many have pointed out, Supreme Court decisions to overturn precedent have historically expanded individual rights, not taken them away.
LGBTQI+ Pride month is an integral part of our community here in Maryland. Parades and celebrations are taking place all across the state, from Salisbury to Cumberland, and I encourage everyone to attend one near you. As an ally, I am committed to uplifting and supporting LGBTQI+ voices. I urge you to lift up your own story or support your neighbors, or family members. In particular, we must make a special effort to protect transgender children and their parents, and safeguard their access to health care and social services during these challenging times.
As extremism grows louder in many states, we must stand united and firm in the face of injustice and continue to proclaim that love is, has been, and always will be, love.
Please stay safe,