Letter from Publisher And Editor in Chief
By, Justin Ayars
Happy Pride, Virginia! As we begin to celebrate Pride throughout the Commonwealth in the months ahead, it’s important to remember the origins of Pride. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. While police raids of gay bars were not uncommon in the 1960s, this particular raid ignited a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations from members of the LGBT and allied communities that lasted two days. After decades of arrests, discrimination and systematic repression, the Stonewall raid sparked a communal feeling of defiance, empowerment and visceral rage, which was was best expressed by one protester who said, “We’ve had enough of this sh*t!” Remembering the riots, one person named Rudy recounted, “There was a cop on his stomach in his tactical uniform with a drag queen straddling him. She was beating the hell out of him with her shoe, whether it was a high heel or not I don’t know, but she was beating the hell out of him.” The 1969 Stonewall Riots were a tipping point for the LGBT community and is considered the official start of the Gay Rights Movement. Since then, June has been celebrated as LGBT Pride Month across the United States and around the world.
On June 1st, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised a rainbow flag on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to mark the start of Pride Month stating, “This is a great day for Canada. . . . it is absolutely wonderful to be celebrating in such a significant way as to raise the Pride flag on Parliament Hill for the very, very first time."
In his National LGBT Pride Month Proclamation of 2016, President Obama declared that America is “upholding the simple truth that LGBT rights are human rights.” Moreover, the President added, “I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”
Here in Virginia, we have a lot to be proud of. Our Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and several members of the General Assembly have repeatedly demonstrated their steadfast support for Virginia’s LGBT community. Governor McAuliffe created a statewide LGBT Tourism Task Force, is once again opening the Governor’s Mansion to members of the LGBT community to celebrate Pride Month and continues his fight to make Virginia “open and welcoming for all.” On March 30, the Governor vetoed SB41 (a so-called “religious freedom” bill that would effectively discriminate against LGBT Virginians). In vetoing SB41, Governor McAuliffe said, “Legislation that immunizes the discriminatory actions of certain people and institutions at the expense of same-sex couples would damage Virginia’s reputation for commonsense, pro-business government.” He later tweeted, “We're not going to tolerate discrimination.”
This past April, Lt. Governor Northam published a piece in The Virginian-Pilot in which he argued that anti-LGBT bills, such as those passed in North Carolina and other states, are bad for society and the economy. “Businesses should be interested in serving the most customers the best product possible, not figuring out the gender or relationship status of people who walk in the door. When Virginia offers a pro-business, all-are-welcome environment, we are better able to compete with other states.”
We Virginians are very fortunate to have an administration and politicians willing to stand up and fight for LGBT rights and openly celebrate LGBT Pride Month. Pride is a time for people to come together and celebrate all of the accomplishments that the LGBT community has made. It is a time to laugh, love, share stories, remember and prepare for the future. It is a time for education, community engagement and economic activity. By creating a safe space where communities, culture and commerce can coalesce, Pride has become a vehicle for economic development, a fundamental thread in the fabric of our diverse society and an affirmation of life itself.
HAPPY PRIDE, VIRGINIA!!