Stonewall anniversary marks progress, distance still to go for gay rights

By Rep. Chellie Pingree | Jun 28, 2019

Each June, people around the world celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. It’s a time for us to mark the progress the LGBTQ community has made toward equal rights — and a time to recognize the ground still left to cover.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. On June 28, 1969, LGBTQ New Yorkers, led by trans women of color, took to the streets of Greenwich Village to push back against brutality and violence. They ignited a grassroots fight for visibility, acceptance and safety for the community. That grassroots fight perseveres today through leaders, activists and allies in Maine and across the country seeking equality under the law.

Largely thanks to these grassroots efforts, the House of Representatives is the most diverse it’s ever been and includes the largest number of LGBTQ members ever elected. I am proud to serve as a vice chair of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, which also has its largest membership ever. With leadership from the caucus, the House recently passed the Equality Act. This landmark legislation will enshrine federal civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure equal access to employment, education, housing, credit and all public services.

I’m grateful to be from a state that knows how important these protections are—Maine law has covered them for nearly 15 years. And our state is a better, more inclusive place because of it. Having guaranteed civil rights for our LGBTQ neighbors means we value the health, safety, and dignity of every Mainer. But Americans should feel secure in their basic civil rights regardless of where they may live or travel. That’s why I was so proud to vote for the Equality Act last month.

Despite this milestone, our work is far from over. The Trump administration’s attacks on access to health care and housing — particularly affecting the transgender community — are hurting people at their most vulnerable. I’m profoundly concerned by recent proposals that would allow medical providers and federally funded homeless shelters to turn away people in need based on their gender identity. I’ve also joined many of my colleagues in speaking against the Department of Defense’s plans to ban transgender troops from serving. I’m committed to taking a stand and using my position in Congress to protect the LGBTQ community’s freedom to live safe, fulfilling lives.

We’ve come a long way since Stonewall. Over the last 50 years, the LGBTQ community has fought for momentous progress. Let us celebrate these accomplishments and the generations of leaders, activists, and allies who helped make real change happen.  Let us also recommit ourselves to building a more just and equal future for all Americans.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-North Haven, represents Maine's 1st District in Congress.

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