A Pastor Spoke Against Pride Month at a City Council Meeting, Days Before June, a Time To Recall the Stonewall Riots

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Speaking at a City Council meeting, pastor Jonathan Shelley of Stedfast Baptist Church in Texas spoke out against the acknowledgment of Gay Pride Month during June. Although some supported his criticism, others spoke out against the preacher's speech via Twitter and other social media platforms. The minister's tirade against acknowledging 'pride' came just days before June 1, the beginning of Pride Month. [i]

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Charnell Gilchrist

During the time when the Stonewall riots occurred, homosexuality was considered a crime and was punishable by law. The pastor pointed this out during his speech. He made a point to clarify that homosexuality was just recently considered a crime. The pastor also acknowledged during his speech that the Supreme Court overturned the 'law on the books' that criminalized homosexuality. [i]

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Despite such outward expression of disapproval towards them, members of the LGTBQ community attribute much of the history behind June's festivities to commemorating the Stonewall riots. Discontented with being forced to hide their identities and live in secrecy, community members credit the Stonewall riots with representing a small fraction of a wave of movements that ensued to support the liberation of LGBTQ individuals. [i]

The attitude exhibited by Shelley during this public City Council meeting is just one example of many in which the behavior of those in religious leadership positions, such as pastors, are allowed to speak outwardly against the LGBTQ community. Witnessing as many cheered the Texas preacher on during his speech, the occurrence helps us to remember the uphill battle still faced by the LGBTQ community--particularly in the face of such a speech suggesting 'pride' not be celebrated. [ii]

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To further illustrate the perils facing the LGBTQ community, officials and leaders in Utah fear that tactics such as divisive politics could increase violent crimes against individuals of the LGBTQ community. Contrary to a widespread belief that tolerance has increased for those identifying as community members, the opposite is true. Intolerance is rising, with hate crimes against LGBTQ nearly doubling and spiking, particularly during June Pride Month. [iii]

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From petty theft of rainbow flags from the porches of neighboring homes to assaults on community members, the methods to express distaste for members of the LGBTQ community varies wildly. As a result, the LGBTQ community questions whether police responses to threats are equitable. For example, minor students making bomb threats have previously been charged with felonies, even in cases in which no definitive evidence existed suggesting that the student was capable of following through with the threat. This same standard is not applied across the board when addressing hate crimes. One example of the lack of measure is depicted in a video of Ethan Schmidt Crockett, who publicly announced threats against LBGT supporters across Arizona. [iv]

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In areas such as Florida, discussions are taking place to address the alarming increase in hate crimes in America. In the past decade, hate crimes based on gender, gender identity, or disabilities have increased by 509%. This overwhelming increase questions whether the state's hate crime laws require revision. The suggestion of potential review comes from many individuals who commit hate crimes but are not charged equitably for the crime committed. This disparity can occur because the Florida laws as they are written do not include specific protection for bias against gender despite the FBI definition including those aspects. As a result, a push for policy and legislation change has been at the forefront of leaders' minds, such as Sarah Emmons, Florida Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League. [v]

Hate-fueled attacks continue to take place across the nation. On May 24, 2022, in San Francisco's SoMa district, a man, Emory Etheridge, was heading home after a night of drinks with friends. While making his way home, Etheridge was shot randomly in the hip during what the victim claims to be a homophobic attack. The victim said he was waiting for an Uber when the attack occurred. [vi]

These prejudiced attacks are not reserved only for individuals, though. At Scarboro United Church in southwest Calgary, the congregation and community recently celebrated a newly welcomed Pride banner to replace a prior one. The church had a similar pennant hanging in March, communicating that LGBTQ members were welcome, but the flag was vandalized -- partially burned and ripped, and the word "repent" had been written across it. Despite the defacement, the church indicated they had no plans to cease conveying their welcoming message. [vii]

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In response to the rise in hate crimes, states such as Connecticut have ramped up investigation efforts requiring more consistent reporting and notice to the new Hate Crimes Investigative Unit within 14 days of an incident. With nearly 15% of Connecticut's 2020 hate crimes involving someone's sexual orientation, the state recognized the need for targeted investigation into hate crimes. [viii]

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Additionally, more individuals such as Curtis Lipscomb, who runs LGBT Detroit, have begun to speak up against hate crimes, ensuring those affected have safe spaces and a plethora of resources available to support them through a potentially harmful experience. [ix]

Thus, even with the sharp spike in hate crimes, June Pride Month will continue to be celebrated by highlighting the Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn, in addition to the contributions from:

  • Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans activist,
  • Josephine Baker, a bisexual entertainer,
  • Karl Ulrichs, a leading German scholar in sexual science,
  • Frida Kahlo, an openly bisexual painter depicting often prohibited topics,

and many more who paved the way for the LGBTQ community as it stands today.

References

[i] Dan Tracer, WATCH: Pastor stops by city council meeting to deliver vicious antigay rant, (May 26, 2022)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Paighten Harkins, Hate crimes against Utah LGBTQ nearly doubled last year, with a big jump during Pride Month (May 31, 2022)

[iv] Joe Dana, Arizona man's threats against LGBTQUIA+ community and Target prompting police investigation, (May 27, 2022)[v] News4JAX, Increase in hate crimes, (Dec 10, 2021)

[vi] Jay Barmann, SF Gay Man Shot In Apparent Hate-Crime Incident In SoMa, (May 30, 2022)

[vii] Helen Pike, Calgary church 'doubles down' on inclusive welcome with new Pride banners after vandalism, (May 30, 2022)

[viii] Susan Haigh, Connecticut to step up investigation of hate crime probes, (May 24, 2022)

[ix] WXYZ-TV Detroit, America, Michigan grappling with rise in hate crimes, how incidents impact more than the individual, (Sep 13, 2021)

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Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Western State College of Law, freelance writer Charnell Gilchrist, a North Carolina native, now spends her free time writing in sunny Aliso Viejo, CA.

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