July 01, 2023

Pride is a Political Struggle, and We Must Meet The Moment.

This year’s Pride Month, which began with a Declaration of Emergency by the HRC, comes to a close with a SCOTUS decision that underscores and amplifies the increasingly precarious and dangerous situation in which our community now finds itself.  Clarence Thomas announced in his Dobbs concurring opinion last year that they were coming for us, and they have.  The wolves are at the door.

The decision, as you know, allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals on the basis of the first amendment.  How soon will it be before we see “No Gays Allowed” on signs in the windows of establishments?  And how many businesses, like Target, will buckle under the pressure of protests from the red hats to not sell to our community? 

This decision confirms members of the LGBTQ+ community as second-class citizens within the United States.  It creates legal cover for homophobia and transphobia, which we will see continue to rise in the coming weeks, months, and years.  If businesses can decline us service, will police departments be able to decline us protection?  Will pharmacists be able to refuse to fill a prescription?   In larger urban conglomerates, we may be able to boycott businesses that discriminate and give our money to those that do not.  But think especially about members of our community in small towns and rural areas, where the market does not sustain a lot of choice.   Because the core of this decision is an argument about free speech, the chilling effect will be to stay quiet, to go back in the closet, to internalize the fear and the hatred--all merely to survive.

This decision puts lives at risk.  And it is with great sadness that I predict that it will not be very long at all before there is another tragedy like Matthew Shepard.   

This decision is rife with unintended consequences, as Justice Sotomayor points out in her dissent.  Muslim-owned businesses may be able to decline services to Jewish clients.  Neighborhood associations may be able to block sales of houses to black families.  No one will care about that but watch what happens when some progressive businesses decline service to Trump supporters on exactly the same basis that was at the heart of this case—I don’t like your speech, and I refuse to have engage with that speech on the basis of a fervently held belief.  Members of our community will suffer great harm, but that will be acceptable because we’re second class citizens—but when a Maga-hat is inconvenienced by a decision that they are currently praising, the noise will be great that the signal will be lost.

This decision, along with the others this week, on affirmative action and loan forgiveness, did not come from nowhere.  They are the fruits of 40 years of careful, systematic, long-term planning by the right, coordinated by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. It’s well past time the left did the same. 

It starts with voting.  For school boards and city councils.  For county commissions and state assemblies.  For sheriffs and district courts.  And above all, for Senators and Presidents.  The urgency to maxmize voter participation from abroad has never been greater—and who knows how much long we will be able to vote from abroad, as attacking voting rights in general is a key part of this long-term strategy.  We may not live long enough to see some of these decisions reversed, and rights taken away restored.  But our children will.  What kind of society do we want them to live in?  If our own children, or eventual members of our community who are currently children, are the future, then WE ARE THE PRESENT AND WE MUST ACT NOW..  If we don’t vote now, massively and at every level, then there simply is no future for the next generation.  Unfortunately, this is not hyperbole.  The writing is on the wall, and we must not be blind to it.

Let’s take a moment to remember why Pride Month exists in the first place, why we celebrate it at the end of June.  It began on a hot summer night in late June in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in NYC.  The bar was raided once again by the vice squad, and at the time, being charged with vice would have been ruinous.  But on this particular night, the bar-goers had had enough, and they fought back.  By standing up and fighting back, progress was made, laws were changed, social attitudes evolved.

Stonewall wasn’t the first such moment, and was not the last—but it is the one we remember as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, for the simple fact that we fought back.  That revolutionary spirit is at the very heart of Pride, this year and every year, and while there may be glitter and glamour in the parade, Pride remains fundamentally a political struggle, and that struggle is real, and it is NOW.

The last few years, and yesterday’s SCOTUS decision, remind us that the fight is far from over, and of the fierce urgency of NOW that animates our community.   This urgency is precisely why the HRC has declared a state of emergency.  We must all do our part to meet the moment.

Therefore, the LGBTQ+ Caucus of Democrats Abroad re-affirms its commitment to bringing these issues and challenges into wider view, to preparing for the fight over LGBTQ+ rights that will be at the center of the 2024 campaign, and to getting out the vote from abroad—and at home.

But we need your help.  We need to mobilize the millions of Americans who live abroad starting now to vote in every single election for which they are eligible.   

Please consider becoming a sustaining donor to Democrats Abroad HERE—just 10$ a month, the equivalent of two fancy coffees at Starbux, can help us reach hundreds of potential voters.  And they could be the difference in who controls the House or Senate.  If you cannot donate money, please consider donating your time as a volunteer

Every little bit helps, and what you do may well secure the future for all of us.  We do not have the luxury of doing nothing.  Mobilize NOW in the spirit of Stonewall.  

With both Pride in our community and concern for our future,

Bob Vallier

Chair, Global LGBTQ+ caucus.

In 2023, there are elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia & Wisconsin. Americans overseas request your absentee ballot today at votefromabroad.org. Every vote counts.