This afternoon the Council will, for the first time, vote on a Pride proclamation. It’s an honor to chair the Council for a moment like this and something I believe is long overdue. It celebrates our LGBTQ+ community and their struggle for fundamental rights and protections under the law, along with their contributions to Pierce County. The response to this simple bill shows that we still have a long way to go.
How far have we come? In 1972 a teacher at Wilson (now Silas) High School was fired without cause after a student outed him. Washington’s Supreme Court upheld the decision, and the US Supreme Court denied cert. Even into the late ’90s, a person could lose their job due to their sexual orientation.
In 2003 the Supreme Court, ruling in Lawrence v Texas, finally overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, making anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Finally, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergfell that people had the right to marry who they wanted.
Some have suggested that this proclamation is unusual and that other groups are more deserving. These sorts of actions are common and rarely see any resistance. The Council frequently acknowledges historically marginalized groups. We also draw attention to past events and the contributions of Pierce County residents. Sometimes it’s as simple as celebrating an accomplishment.
There’s concern that this is harmful to the religious beliefs of Christians and other faiths; quite the opposite. Nothing in this proclamation would presume to inform your beliefs or religious practices. It’s because the government can’t interfere in your faith that it also can’t use the government to impose its beliefs on others.
Others think the timing is wrong. Many communities celebrated Pride last month. In Tacoma/Pierce County, our festivities have always been in July to avoid overlapping with other celebrations. This proclamation is timed to coincide with that and mirrors the City of Tacoma’s proclamation. That doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate other holidays or people. For example, as is the case every year, we had an Independence Day proclamation.
This proclamation is important because we know the LGBTQ+ community still faces discrimination and rejection. Until recently, the law sanctioned it. As a result, they still suffer disproportionately from homelessness, behavioral health disorders, and violence.
Rights aren’t zero-sum. Acknowledging the dignity of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues takes nothing away from anyone else. For me, very specifically, this is about the kid feeling alone and wondering about their place in the world. We’re saying that you are loved, you are valued, and your place is right here at home in South Sound.