In the midst of Pride month, it’s an unfortunate reality that a small minority of closed-minded people just cannot fathom the fact there are millions of Americans who don’t identify as straight, who don’t classify themselves as the gender they were assigned at birth, or who believe that these aspects of their identities (and more) shouldn’t preclude them from enjoying the freedoms and privileges that are inherently granted to others within our democracy.
That’s pretty much what Pride month is all about. It’s the recognition of how far the LGBTQ community has come since the Stonewall riots of 1969, and yet also an opportunity to highlight the injustices that remain for them today.
That last bit is particularly important: Americans need to be educated on what work remains to be done, as recent polling demonstrates most of us don’t even realize how bad things still are for these groups of people.
A plurality of Americans (45 percent), in fact, believe that federal rules are already in place to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other gender non-conforming individuals from discrimination in housing, employment, and other public or private services. Only 23 percent of Americans rightly understand that these protections do not exist for the LGBTQ community, per previous reporting from HillReporter.com.
Yet conservative politicians and commentators alike across this nation are presently upset over a different aspect of Pride month. Rather than agree that the injustices these individuals face are, indeed, unfair and unjust, many on the right have put their focus instead on the displaying of rainbow-colored Pride flags in public areas. Such flags, many of them say, are simply too offensive to their frail, “traditional” sensibilities.
This is hardly the thing to be worried about at this time — especially when violence against the LGBTQ community is still rampant. Unfortunately, this is where we’re at with regards to politics in 2019, and so the right insists it must be discussed.
In my home state of Wisconsin, for example, some Republican lawmakers couldn’t help themselves but voice disdain at Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s decision to place a Pride flag below the state and U.S. flags on his wing of the state Capitol building. Evers did so in order to send “a clear and unequivocal message that Wisconsin is a welcoming and inclusive place where everyone can live without fear of persecution, judgment, or discrimination,” according to the Cap Times in Madison.
Rep. Scott Allen, a conservative Christian Republican in the state Assembly, took issue with Evers’s decision. The flag “advocates a behavior or lifestyle that some Wisconsin residents may not condone,” he told the Associated Press.
And in a tweet, he questioned, “Is this any more appropriate than erecting the Christian flag over the Capitol?”
It is, of course,more appropriate. Secular flags — of which, the Pride flag is, as it’s not religious in nature — fly over the state Capitol building all the time, such as the POW/MIA flag, without such misgivings from lawmakers. And again, per Evers’s statement, the Pride flag’s presence is about demonstrating inclusiveness in the state — something that shouldn’t be so “controversial.”
This is just another petty, cruel way for the Trump administration to signal they won't support or defend LGBTQ+ communities at home or abroad. We should fly the Pride flag proudly—and take real, meaningful actions to bolster & protect LGBTQ+ civil rights.https://t.co/7zVp4hdpYO
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 12, 2019
On the national landscape, the Trump administration itself became embroiled in the flag “controversy,” demanding that American embassies around the world not fly the Pride flag on their poles or properties (some did anyway). Vice President Mike Pence tried to justify the Pride flag ban by saying it was “the right decision” to not allow the rainbow flag to soar next to the American flag.
Beyond Pence’s words, however, some have taken a more violent route — in rhetoric and in action. E.W. Jackson, a far-right conservative pastor, stated this week his passionate distaste with the Pride flag, urging for its destruction across the country.
“We need to burn every rainbow flag in this nation,” he said, per reporting from Right Wing Watch.
Unfortunately, someone agreed. In Ames, Iowa, a man took down a flag that was hung up on private property, at a United Church of Christ building. He then set the flag on fire. The man is currently in custody facing myriad charges, per reporting from the Ames Tribune.
While some on the right are more focused about imagery and how they cannot stand to see a Pride flag soar, the real issues that deserve our attention are the continued injustices and violent actions that target the LGBTQ community. These are the more serious, consequential issues that matter, some of which are institutional and others that will require societal change in attitudes among the more bigoted among us.
Those that take issue with the Pride flag are exposing their prejudices and making it difficult to have a genuine conversation on how to protect our LGBTQ siblings. And while they may think that their views are important, in reality they demonstrate a childish and out-of-date viewpoint that ought to be shunned by forward-thinking people.
It isn’t Christians who are being persecuted against by having to tolerate a rainbow flag they could just as easily ignore as they do rant about. No — the violence and violent rhetoric that continue to plague the LGBTQ community is of greater concern, and deserves more attention than any of the flag “controversy” being drummed up on the right.