With another Pride in the Pines in the books, it’s hard not to notice how far this city and country have come in terms of equality.
Let us reflect on what changes have been made on a national level.
The Society for Human Rights was founded in Chicago in 1924. On April 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order that banned homosexuals from working for the government as they believed them to be a security risk. In September 1955, Daughter of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization, was formed. On the first day of 1973, Maryland became the first state to ban same-sex marriage. On October 14, 1979, the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights took place. There were an estimated 75,000 to 125,000 individuals in attendance. Then in April 1997, the beloved comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian. In April 26, 2000, Vermont become the first state to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples. Four years later, May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. A little over two years later, October 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court stated that lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. In 2008, California legalized same-sex marriage. In September 2011, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed. On June 26, 2016, same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. In February 2018, the Pentagon confirmed the first transgender person to sign a contract to join the military. Then in early January, President Trump’s transgender military ban went into effect.
Although we have currently been set back by Trump's policies, we have still grown exceptionally. Flagstaff itself has grown tremendously in just 10 years. In 2009, the City of Flagstaff began recognizing domestic partnership benefits. Then in 2011, the city proclaimed June as LGBTQ month.
Five years later, in 2016, Flagstaff Pride flew the first rainbow flag at a city hall in Arizona, in remembrance of those lost in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. This was the biggest mass shooting in United States history, leaving 49 dead and 50 wounded.
Then on June 1, Flagstaff became the first city in Arizona to raise the rainbow flag for the whole month of June, in celebration of Pride Month.
Flagstaff and the U.S. are not the only two entities to create a more neutral environment for the LGBTQ community; NAU has also stepped up.
In 2012, NAU established Gender Inclusive Housing with the goal of helping “transgender, gender-variant and questioning students to experience safety and belonging while living on campus.” NAU also has the Out and Proud List, a list of faculty and staff who are “out” and happy to serve as a resource for the NAU community.
Another resource on NAU’s campus is People Respecting Individuals & Sexual Minorities, better known as PRISM. According to NAU’s website, PRISM is the largest LGBTQ organization on campus. PRISM meets weekly to discuss topics ranging from queer history/herstory to the controversies surrounding transgender identities. There is also the Queer and Ally Research Team, a political, queer community that strives to create a more inclusive atmosphere.
We still have room for growth. We are still generations, and what feels like worlds, away from where we need to be in terms of equality. But the plus side to all of this is there are improvements, and as a population we are getting to a place of acceptance. We are chasing fearlessly. Although it feels like we are so far away, we are getting there.
I want to leave you with a saying that says both goodnight and good morning to me daily: “The whole world hinges on love.”
My friends, love is what we will gain.