Wednesday, June 16, 2010

L.A Pride Turns 40!!

This past weekend (June 11-13th) was the 40th annual Los Angeles Pride presented by Christopher Street West in the City of West Hollywood, California. The lovely FMF Choices Campus and Ms. Magazine interns volunteered with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the nation's oldest LGBT organization.

The Task Force is one of the nation’s experts on LGBT campaigns and the ballot box. Constantly fighting for equality, the Task Force trains activists and volunteers, equips state and local groups with grassroots organizing skills, and conducts important research and policy analysis on issues affecting the LGBT community.

The volunteers spoke with Pride attendees about the Task Force and raised money for the organization to continue its amazing work nationwide. Last year, the Task Force was instrumental in getting a non-discrimination law passed in Kalamazoo, Michigan by a remarkable 63%, making it illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual preference or gender identity in housing, employment or access to public accommodations.

The Task Force is currently working on a broad range of issues, from hate crimes, youth, politics, faith, health, nondiscrimination, family, to marriage equality. 35 states still have same-sex marriage bans on their books and Proposition 8 has riled up the LGBT community across the country. With closing arguments today, Wednesday, June 16, 2010 in a trial challenging the Constitutionality of Prop. 8, same-sex marriage has remained an important issue. The Task Force has teamed up with Equality California to repeal Prop. 8.

When the interns asked the attendees which issues they were passionate about, common responses were same-sex marriage (particularly Proposition 8), youth safety and education, nondiscrimination, and the United States military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

The interns also joined in for the festivities, enjoying the wide variety of food, great musical performances (including Kelly Rowland, Kelis and EnVouge), numerous booths and activities, and a top-notch parade. The historic pride parade was established in 1970 to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots, sparked by police brutality during a raid of the popular gay bar in the early hours of June 28, 1969. The lesser known riots at Compton’s Cafeteria in 1966 and Stonewall, which is commonly used as the marker for the modern movement for LGBTQ rights, were vitally important social protests for conducing social change in the United States and need to be remembered.

The United States Supreme Court ruling on Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) struck down all remaining state sodomy laws, but the LGBTQ community still faces severe discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and inequality in the United States, with LGBTQ youth at extremely high risk of suicide and a lack of civil rights for all citizens.

Although LA Pride has recently been criticized for its commercialism, the right to march proudly down Santa Monica Boulevard, with LGBTQ activists, state and city officials, families, allies and corporations, is an important moment of visibility and the interns were excited to be a part of it.

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