In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police conducted a now-infamous raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The event led to what became known as the Stonewall Riots and is largely credited as launching the Gay Liberation Movement. It’s also why we celebrate LGBTQ pride in June, as we honor the sacrifices and bold actions of those who set us in motion toward justice and equality. Almost 50 years later, we have made enormous strides towards building a more inclusive society. Three years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and last year the high court ruled at last that the constitution guarantees the right of same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote bountifully about what marriage means to us: “No longer may this liberty be denied…No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
I remember the day of each of these Supreme Court decisions vividly. On June 26, 2013, I made my way in the early morning toward Stonewall. I was going to wait with a few others (and many television cameras) as the decision was handed down. When the cries of jubilation erupted around the bar and champagne glasses were clinking, a man announced he was buying us all another round. I asked him later why he did that. He answered, “Because I was here in 1969 and I needed to see this day where it all began.”
Two years later I raced again to the Village, this time with my wife and newborn son, to celebrate with thousands of others. We breathed a collective sigh of relief that there will never be a day when I have to explain to my son that there are states in his country that don’t recognize his parents or his family as valid.
We should celebrate all these enormous strides towards justice, but our work is not done. Anyone can now get married in all 50 states. However, in 28 states, you can be legally fired for being gay or transgender. This is why it is critically important to agitate for stronger non-discrimination laws in each state as well as a federal ban on workplace discrimination of any kind.
On the union front, Pride at Work is a group within the AFL-CIO whose mission is help members of the LGBTQ community get involved in the labor movement and explain why being in a union is important. I became of a member last year and have learned ways in which we can use union contracts to further protect members of our community from discrimination.
We have made great progress, but those who oppose equality are refining their tactics. They are enacting so-called “bathroom bills” in legislatures around the country. (These kinds of laws actually dictate which bathroom you’re allowed to use. Transgender people in particular are targeted.) North Carolina is a case in point, where such a law was enacted in a single day. This has led to a very loud public outcry. Businesses are moving out of the state, jobs and tax revenue are lost, and now the Justice Department is suing the state for violating federal statutes on discrimination.
As we come together to celebrate Pride Month with our families and friends, we must remember our work is not done. We must stick together. The struggles of the labor movement and the struggles for LGBTQ freedom are not mutually exclusive. Both are about advancing dignity and justice for all.
If you are interested in joining Pride at Work, please feel free to reach out to me at (212) 245-4802, ext. 157 or Mrussell@Local802afm.org.
Maggie Russell-Brown is the director of organizing and field services. If you’re playing a job where you feel disrespected or know that you aren’t being paid fairly, contact Maggie at (212) 245-4802, ext. 157 or Mrussell@Local802afm.org. You can also call the Local 802 hotline anonymously at (212) 245-4802, ext. 260 to report a job or working situation.