June is Pride Month in the United States.
In big cities and small communities, LGBTQ+ people and their friends, families and allies will celebrate freedom and progress towards full equality. All fair-minded Americans can celebrate this progress.
But there is a growing shadow over this year’s celebrations. The far-right political movement is aggressively trying to turn the clock back to a time when LGBTQ+ people weren’t treated equally under the law. Anti-equality legal groups and anti-equality politicians are pushing legal and political attacks against our most vulnerable young people. Political operatives of the MAGA movement are trying to win elections by stirring up fear and hatred against LGBTQ+ people.
They propose and pass staggering laws of cruelty. Some make it a crime for librarians to let students read books with gay themes and characters — or for teachers to provide supportive information to LGBTQ+ students. Some make it a crime for doctors to provide proper health care to transgender youth. In Texas, parents who are simply trying to love and support their trans children can now be charged with child abuse.
It is more than unacceptable. It’s sadistic. Driving the passage of these laws is a false and inflammatory campaign to portray support for LGBTQ+ people as the equivalent of pedophilia. Right-wing elected activists and pundits defame gay people as threats to children, and equality advocates as “groomers”. This kind of smear is dangerous. False and demonizing stereotypes have a long history that black people know well. Lies about black men have been used by violent fanatics to justify the lynching needed to “protect” white women – and continue to drive police violence against black people today. The more far-right elected officials and activists propagate the “groomer” lie, the more likely some fanatics will try to justify discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ people as necessary to “protect” children and young people. And then there is the Supreme Court. Historically, it was in June that the Supreme Court struck down state laws that criminalized homosexuals.
A dozen years later, in another June decision, the court ruled that states could not refuse to marry same-sex couples. The month of June gave us many reasons to celebrate the march towards full equality. But all that could change. Thanks to far-right judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, the same majority that considers states’ rights more important than voting rights is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, depriving Americans of a constitutional right that the court has recognized for half a century. The eagerness of the majority of far-right courts to eliminate a long-recognized right to privacy and abortion is deeply troubling to those of us who support legal equality. The anti-LGBTQ+ legal and political groups that have urged the Court to overturn Roe v Wade are hoping the same justices will overturn more recent rulings that recognized the equality of LGBTQ+ people and same-sex couples.
They don’t just want to overturn the court’s decision on marriage equality. They also want the court to let states criminalize homosexuality, again making it possible to fire gay people or take their children away from them because of their sexual orientation. They want America to discriminate again. It’s time for all Americans who support equality and civil rights to reject the anti-LGBTQ+ slander and the harm and discrimination it causes. And it’s time to remember that the first equality marches were not about pride, but about freedom and liberation. Let’s celebrate Pride this month.
Let’s make sure people understand how much progress is at risk. And let’s get organized. We are only six months away from local, state and national elections. These elections will either give more power to the rampaging anti-freedom forces who want to take over the country – and set us all back – or they will help us move forward towards the goal of freedom and justice for all.
Ben Jealous is President of People For the American Way and Professor of Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.