WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, issued the following statement on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus Pride Month 2023. Information on upcoming Maryland Pride events can be found at this link.
“Pride is celebrated throughout June, when the weather is warm, spirits are high and school is out, but it has been far from sunshine and the signature LGBTQ+ rainbows for the community.
“Fifty-four years ago on June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, became the birthplace for Pride as riots broke out in response to a predatory police raid. At the time, homosexual acts were ruled illegal in every state except Illinois, and gay bars, the one place where LGBTQ+ people could feel safe to openly express their sexuality, became targets.
“It wasn’t pretty. Thirteen people were arrested on charges that would be considered absurd in today’s courtrooms. The bar was nearly destroyed, and dozens were injured, but the groundwork for civil rights and progress had been laid by a group of LGBTQ+ people who decided that they had enough. They knew it was society, not them, that needed to change.
“In the decades since, advocates have fueled victories and endured heartbreaks, always triumphing over adversity while never losing sight of a better future. We saw this firsthand last December, when same-sex marriage became federally protected after President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law. This was an important step forward on our unfinished march for civil rights and a more perfect union that guarantees equal rights and equal justice under the law for all Americans, which was only made possible by the brave actions of tireless supporters.
“Progress is ongoing. We continue to fight in Congress for policies like the Equality Act, which would amend the landmark federal anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to longstanding bans on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding, and more. I am also proud that this Congress, the a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate voted for my resolution to affirm the validity of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This constitutional amendment, which would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, would provide firm constitutional backing for the Equality Act and other protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.
“Last year, 1,271 companies participated in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, where over 99 percent of organizations included sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. This past April, Gov. Wes Moore signed the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Medicaid to provide coverage of gender affirming care to program enrollees starting next year. Twenty-one states and D.C. have banned conversion therapy, which doesn’t include Michigan where similar legislation is gaining traction in their state legislature.
“While every victory should be celebrated, we must also acknowledge that great challenges remain. Several of the nation’s largest civil rights groups recently advised LGBTQ+ people against traveling to Florida due to new laws that target the community, and the Human Rights Coalition recently declared it’s first-ever national state of emergency. Access to gender-affirming care has been restricted in many states. Drag queens are being demonized by far-right extremists desperate for a villain in the stories they tell themselves.
“Despite these challenges, tenacious groups like the Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign and ACLU are pushing back through education campaigns, safe spaces and crisis lines to LGBTQ+ youths and advocacy work in statehouses across the country and Congress. If you’re dismayed by recent events, there are many ways to lend your voice and time to the movements.
“I understand why many LGTBQ+ people are afraid right now, but please know that you never have to navigate this fear alone. You are seen and heard. I will never stop fighting for your place in policies and visibility in society. You have allies in Congress, and the spirit of Stonewall inside of you.
“As the groundbreaking transgender activist and a leading voice from the Stonewall Riots Marsha B. Johnson said, ‘History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable. It happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.’
“This month and 365 days a year, working together, we will strive to create a brighter and bolder reality for everyone’s colors on the rainbow. Happy Pride 2023.”