Pride Parades Have New Urgency After Dobbs Decision

NEW YORK — Parades celebrating LGBTQ pride kick off in some of America’s biggest cities Sunday amid new fears about the potential erosion of freedoms won through decades of activism.

Just two days following a Supreme Court conservative justice’s ruling regarding abortion, one of its judges in New York suggested that it should revisit the rights to same-sex marriage, which was recognized in 2015, the annual marches take place in Chicago, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities.

This warning shot was issued after one year of legislative losses for the LGBTQ community. These included the passing of legislation in certain states that limited the use of gender identity or sexual orientation with children.

As anti-gay sentiments resurface, some are pushing for pride parades to return to their roots — less blocks-long street parties, more overtly civil rights marches.

“It has gone from being a statement of advocacy and protest to being much more of a celebration of gay life,” Sean Clarkin, 67, said of New York City’s annual parade while enjoying a drink recently at Julius’s, one of the oldest gay bars in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

He recalls that the parade used to be about resisting an oppressive mainstream, which saw transgenders as outsiders.

“As satisfying and empowering as it may be to now be accepted by the mainstream,” Clarkin said, “there was also something energizing and wonderful about being on the outside looking in.”

Dan Dimant, a spokesperson for Heritage of Pride, the nonprofit that organizes New York City’s parade, said this year’s march will still be festive, with floats and “people dancing and celebrating.”

“Pride is many things to many people. And for many people, it’s a protest. And to many people, it’s a celebration. We create experiences for members of our community to experience pride and the way that resonates with them,” Dimant said.

New York’s first Pride March, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was held in 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, a spontaneous street uprising triggered by a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan.

San Francisco’s first march was in 1972 and had been held every year since, except during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global celebrations now take place all year, in many countries. Many of the largest parades happen in June. One of the world’s largest, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was held June 19.

In the United States, this year’s celebrations take place amid a potential crisis.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in an concurring opinion to a Supreme Court ruling on Friday that invalidated the right of abortion, said in a concurrence statement that it should reconsider the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing samesex marriage as well as the 2003 Supreme Court decision eliminating laws criminalizing homosexual sex.

Over a dozen state legislatures have passed laws in recent years that are against LGBTQ community interests. These include a Florida law banning any mentions of sexual orientation in schools and threats of criminal prosecution for parents who let their children get Texas-based gender affirming care.

Numerous states have laws prohibiting transgender athletes who participate in teams that are not related to the gender they identify.

An Anti-Defamation League survey, released last week, found members of LGBTQ communities are more likely to have been harassed than anyone else. Two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed said they were harassed and just over half stated that harassment occurred because of their sexual orientation.

Recent years have seen schisms in Stonewall’s commemoration, which has spawned splinter organizations events that are more protest-oriented.

In New York City, the Queer Liberation March takes place at the same time as the traditional parade, billing itself as the “antidote to the corporate-infused, police-entangled, politician-heavy Parades that now dominate Pride celebrations.”

The parades will likely see more of that energy, although many supporters of marches view them as an amalgamation of celebration and activism.

New Yorker Vincent Maniscalco, 40, who has been married to his husband for five years, said he thought the marches are an opportunity to both spotlight civil rights issues and bring “individuals together of all walks of life to celebrate their authentic self. And I think the New York City Pride Parade does a very excellent job of that.”

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