In the age of Trump, gay pride gets political again

Garance Franke-Ruta
Senior Politics Editor
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., left, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attend the L.A. Pride Resist March on June 11. (Photo: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — “Arrest us, just try it, remember Stonewall was a riot!” gay activists chanted in 1989 during an unofficial late-night march in lower Manhattan commemorating the 20th anniversary of the now famous three-day uprising by a ragtag band of gays, lesbians and transgender people in the wake of a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar.

Since the fiery birth of the contemporary gay rights movement at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, shouts of “Gay Power!” have given way to wedding toasts as a group once forced to the margins of American society fought and won mainstream acceptance and legal protections, decade by difficult decade. That accelerated rapidly under President Obama, as his views on same-sex marriage evolved and he led the Democratic Party to a new place of political commitment to gay rights. After the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country in 2015, many gay groups wondered what issue would come next.

Employment inequality was one issue, and others included continuing familial rejection and homelessness faced by LGBTQ youth, and the alarmingly high levels of HIV infection among gay and bisexual African-American men, especially in parts of the conservative South. But the activist energy that had attended the gay marriage fight did not immediately transfer itself to any fresh issue, and debate swirled around whether people were resting on their laurels prematurely, or just deservedly taking a breather.

Whatever it was, this past weekend made clear that that brief moment of LGBTQ activist quiet is now over as groups new and old across the country have organized to bring politics back to Pride Month and to pride parades. The festive annual occasions have in recent years come in for criticism for being as much about the advertising displays of major corporations —  full of name-brand floats — as about efforts to strike a blow for equality. But the Trump effect that has mobilized so many and turned suburban moms across the country into resistance activists has had an even greater impact on a community with a long history of political organizing, from gay liberation to AIDS activism to the marriage-equality movement and trans rights fights.

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Equality March for Unity and Pride participants march past the White House on June 11. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In Los Angeles on Sunday, the annual gay pride parade was replaced by the Resist March, a protest at the intersection of several strands of political opposition to President Trump. “Forces are gathering in government that intend to take away our hard-won basic human rights,” organizers wrote in their mission statement. “Instead of a Pride Parade meant to celebrate our past progress, we are going to march to ensure all our futures.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff joined the march in Los Angeles, while thousands marched on Washington Sunday in the National Equality March. Some gathered off the parade route to chant “Love trumps hate!” in front of the White House. Activists posted on social with the hashtag #UniteResistEnlist.

Sister marches, such as the NM Resist Rally for the Equality March in Albuquerque, took place in more than 100 cities across the country, organized by local LGBTQ groups as well as new resistance groups, such as local Indivisible Chapters.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., a group calling itself “No Justice, No Pride” had on Saturday blocked the route of the pride parade, forcing it to reroute, in a bid to draw attention to what they said was the overcommercialization of the event and the lack of attention to the needs of ethnic and racial minorities in the gay community. “We exist to end the LGBT movement’s collusion with systems of oppression that further marginalize queer and trans individuals,” the group said on Facebook.

On Monday night, a group called Gays Against Guns returned to Stonewall, which in addition to still being an active bar is now a federally recognized historic monument, holding a vigil for the 49 victims of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub shooting in the single-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

In Orlando, activists marched honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as gay groups demanded #honorthemwithaction on social media.

When Trump ran for president, some thought the born-and-bred New York City resident would be better on LGBTQ questions than any previous Republican president. He had previously said he was “fine” with same-sex marriage, and considered it “settled” after the Supreme Court’s rulings, and that transgender people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate.” But once in power the Trump administration has shown little interest in defending such LBGTQ rights as have been won, or even Trump’s stated views, and it broke with the tradition the Obama administration had sought to establish of holding a gay pride reception at the White House.

Neither the president nor vice president mentioned that the victims of the Pulse shooting were primarily LBGTQ when they tweeted about the anniversary of the attack on Monday.

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