The respective mayors and City Councils of Alexandria and Fairfax City issued proclamations on Tuesday night declaring June as LGBT/LGBTQ Pride Month for the third year in a row, in a symbolic show of solidarity with the Northern Virginia LGBT community. In issuing the proclamations, they join the City of Falls Church, the Town of Herndon, Arlington County and Fairfax County, who have all recognized the historical significance of the month for LGBT people in this country.
“It’s a small gesture, but it’s a really important one, to send a signal to LGBTQ people in each area that their community welcomes them and appreciates the contributions they make as citizens,” says Brian Reach, the president and executive director of Northern VA Pride. “It removes stigma, and it’s very important. Even if it’s just a piece of paper, it’s a lot more than that to the people who might be feeling outcast or rejected.”
Nearly all of the proclamations received unanimous approval from local councils or boards of supervisors, save for Fairfax County and the Town of Herndon, where there was one empty seat. In Fairfax County, that seat belongs to supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who has made it a point to walk out before the vote in each of the four years the proclamation has been brought before the board.
Reach says Northern VA Pride reached out to other local governments to ask them if they’d consider proposing similar resolutions. In the City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park, some government officials supported the idea, but there are not enough votes to bring such a proclamation to a vote. Next door, Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors has not responded to inquiries from Northern VA Pride.
But perhaps the most blatant disrespect comes from Loudoun County, where Democrats had three surprise victories in the 2015 elections. As such, they have enough votes to bring a resolution or proclamation up for a vote, but cannot guarantee it will pass the nine-member board.
Reach says allies on the Council are expected to bring up the issue at the board’s July 5 meeting, but also notes there is a strong push by conservatives to block any motion having to do with LGBT rights. The Republican Party of Loudoun previously wrote a letter to the board objecting to any resolution that did not have to do with fiscal issues, accusing Democrats on the board of politicizing the issue.
“Loudoun residents are tired of Democrats on the Board of Supervisors using their positions to play politics rather than focusing on their responsibilities to manage the county,” Will Estrada, the chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee, said in a statement.
But Democrat Kristen Umstattd told LoudounNow.com that she had brought up the resolution after being approached by more than 30 county residents following the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. She likened the resolution to others the board has taken up to recognize cancer survivors, Black History Month, and equal rights for women.
Reach says that, regardless of the political gamesmanship going on behind the scenes in Loudoun County, his organization is not phased, and plans to lobby for a resolution or proclamation next year.
“If we can’t get it passed, we’d at least like to have our leaders make their positions known,” says Reach. “It’s progress just to even get a response from Loudoun. Because this is the third year we’ve tried to approach them, and this is the first year we’ve heard back.”
Last Friday, during a White House reception celebrating Pride Month, President Joe Biden touted his administration's various efforts to achieve LGBTQ equality, while calling on Congress to adopt full federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
Joined by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who is openly gay and the first out LGBTQ cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate, Biden declared that the Pride Month reception "makes a simple, strong statement: Pride is back at the White House."
The president said the month-long celebration, which commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, is about "being able to love yourself, love whoever you love, and love this country enough to make it more fair and more free and more just."
The U.S. Department of State has commemorated the first ever flying of the LGBTQ Pride flag at the department's headquarters.
The Progress Pride flag, designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018 to better represent transgender people and LGBTQ people of color, was raised over the Harry S Truman Building on June 25.
While U.S. embassies have flown the Pride flag for years -- except for when the Trump administration banned them -- this marks the first time that State Department headquarters has flown the flag.
"I was honored to speak today as the progress flag was raised over @StateDept headquarters for the first time, showing the flag, "demonstrating to people everywhere that the United States is committed to fighting for LGBTQI+ rights at home and abroad," Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman said in a tweet.
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