National Commentary, News, The Reach

The LGBTQ+ Reach: July 6-12, 2023

I’m completing this column on Independence Day, after eating a cheeseburger and watching fireworks in stereo between my television and the outside window. I’ve given up on reading the entire opinion issued by the Supreme Court on Friday, which found that businesses can refuse public services to LGBTQ+ people based on religious beliefs.

I spent the first half of my day trying to consume the SCOTUS opinion in full, but ended up stuck on the syllabus. I found myself re-reading the end of the second page — where previous cases are used to set stage for the majority’s argument.

The seven rulings referenced in the syllabus are below.  At  several Human Rights Campaign (HRC) town halls that took place earlier this year, as 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across the country, HRC state legislative director and senior counsel Catherine Oakley (she/her) called the movement “vintage discrimination.”  She was right.

A 2006 ruling that speech, even if intended to cause harm, must be upheld, in response to Westboro Baptist Church picketing soldiers’ funerals (the “God Hates You” family).

A 2014 ruling that Massachusetts could not set up 35-foot ‘no protest zones’ around entrances to abortion service providers. I’m

A 2000 ruling that a member organization may ban LGBTQ+ people, calling opposition to homosexuality part of the organization’s “expressive message,” as was asserted by the plaintiff, the Boy Scouts of America.

A 1927 ruling that allowed California to imprison people for being members of the Communist Labor Party, citing “criminal syndicalism” and finding that “although the rights of free speech and assembly are fundamental, they are not, in their nature, absolute.”  The ruling was overturned in 1969.

A 1969 ruling that Iowa schools couldn’t discipline students for wearing armbands in silent protest of the Vietnam War.

A 1943 ruling that schools could not force students to salute the flag or recite the pledge.  Used in this case to accuse Colorado of trying to force thought, despite the lawsuit being pre-emptive, this is a total false flag.

1995 ruling that the organizers of Boston’s city-funded St. Patrick’s Day parade, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, could exclude the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB, somehow, because we love an acronym) group from marching as a contingent.

Let’s zoom in on that last one for a moment.  In 1992 GLIB won a lawsuit against the Council and was allowed to march in the Parade, courts ruling that because the city funds the parade, the Council must comply with Massachusetts law that, even in 1992, banned sexual orientation discrimination.  Hostility from the crowd during the parade was reportedly palpable and semi-violent.

The next year the Council declined city funds to again try to exclude GLIB.  The judge ruled that the event was public and that “history does not record that St. Patrick limited his ministry to heterosexuals or that General Washington’s soldiers were all straight.  Inclusiveness should be the hallmark of the parade.”  GLIB marched, and reports at the time cited a significantly less hostile crowd.

The Council canceled the 1994 parade entirely, then in 1995 they announced that the march would now have a theme — marching with black flags instead of green in protest of recent state court decisions.  This year, the Council said, GLIB just wouldn’t fit the theme — a legal basis for exclusion.  The Council won, and the city had to provide the permit.  Public employees didn’t march, and attendance dropped by half — but GLIB was legally excluded from the parade, and ultimately SCOTUS upheld the discrimination.

A Break, and Unwelcome Reminiscence

It felt muggy earlier, like it ought to this time of year, and reading the opinion gave me a headache.  I needed a break, so I went to the pool.  Several friends from the building were slowly accumulating for a poolside party, while a large group of families and children assembled for a cookout nearby at the outside grills; the perfect scene for Independence Day.  Our readers may have felt a ping of reminiscence in the air as well; it just smelled like the Fourth, didn’t it?

I didn’t last long at the pool.  I didn’t want to be alone, and felt antagonized by the celebratory spirit.  These feelings were reminiscent of grade school, when the bullies were allowed to pick on queer kids like me.  Roe v. Wade is overturned.  Affirmative Action is overturned.  Discrimination has been reasserted using weak, dusty, scientifically inaccurate beliefs.  The other side’s narratives are filled with crocodile tears, victims of a “woke mob” that doesn’t exist. 

Allies: It’s Ok To Be Exhausted

We’re under attack and need allies more than ever.  We  can’t do this alone, and because of your love and support, we don’t have to.

The homophobic drumbeat is exhausting.  I’m exhausted, my mother is scared and exhausted, and I imagine you are as well.  Something new is thrown at us daily, before we can process the previous day’s news.  This is deliberate; the other side is counting on you getting overwhelmed and giving up.

The basic equality we worked so hard for is being chipped away.  Please take care of yourself, find like-minded friends to talk with, and speak up when a you hear a falsehood.  Ask if drag queen storytime is scarier than active shooter drills at elementary school, or the possibility that a child will never return home from school. 

It’s ok to get exhausted, but please don’t give up.  Please remember that LGBTQ+ people didn’t instigate this attack.  And please show kindness to your LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors.  We’re scared, and could use the reassurance.

Bad law based on bad faith based on bad precedent.  Happy birthday, America.