The Fourth of July That Came and Went
Trump administration backtracks on LGBTQ issues
Someone asked why I hadn’t written something to commemorate the Fourth of July. Last year, for the occasion, I wrote of all the advances towards equality we had enjoyed since Stonewall and, especially, since 2008. That’s when President Obama began his two-term, head-over-heels marathon ending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, enshrining the Stonewall as a national historic site, formally recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month and the Supreme Court decided in favor of marriage equality.
This year, however, the Fourth just came and went. We had just celebrated Pride and Stonewall’s 48th anniversary. But, ominously, there was no Presidential Pride Month Declaration. Instead the POTUS attended an evangelical religious conference.
Milwaukee had a highly successful PrideFest with record attendance of 37,682. On Sunday there was a Solidarity Rally for the Equality March in Washington, D.C. Only several dozen attended. The same day, our largest Pride Parade on record stepped off. One woman marched, perhaps unofficially, calling out “Remember Orlando.” She was the Parade’s only politically vocal presence. LGBTQ advocate, Minnesota’s Democratic Senator Al Franken was in town for a book signing. But he didn’t show up at PrideFest or the Pride Parade. I know, he’s a busy man and probably had to rush off to another signing somewhere. But for that, gay political satirist Randy Rainbow was PrideFest’s main stage MC. He was in the Parade, too. He passed me by in a blue convertible behind the PrideFest contingent. It took me a moment to recognize him. He made no regal waves. Admittedly, it was a hot day.
Also during Pride Month, a federal court upheld Mississippi’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. The ironically titled legislation permits discrimination in the name of “sincerely held beliefs.” Beyond permitting discrimination by religious agencies, it allows government employees to opt out of issuing same-sex marriage licenses and private schools or businesses to make their own bathroom policies. Surgeons can refuse to perform gender reassignment procedures. While the ruling purportedly guarantees services, like the issuing of marriage licenses or emergency medical care, there seems to be no recourse should no local court or hospital staff be willing to provide them.
Then came the Fourth. This year, in addition to its traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence, NPR tweeted the entire text. Some supporters of the current regime responded with rage. Not recognizing our most famous national document from 1776, they thought its references to tyrants were about them. They’re so vain.
Meanwhile, in Poland, dear leader choose not to visit the Memorial to the 1943 Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Some of his followers greeted the affront to humanity unapologetically, ranting, “Of course, he didn’t go. Fake News! The Holocaust Never Happened!” It’s no coincidence the administration has defunded an anti-Nazi program of the Department of Homeland Security. Ironically, a Louisiana Republican congressman used his visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp Memorial to make a selfie video as a political advertisement, presenting the Holocaust as a metaphor for the consequences facing the embattled white Christian culture.
So no, I couldn’t muster ebullient reflections on the Fourth of July or our unalienable rights. In fact for me, this year’s fireworks suggested a siege rather than a celebration.