Happy Gay Pride! June is recognized throughout the world as GLBT Pride month. It is as much a time to celebrate being gay or lesbian, as it is to ponder accomplishments, setbacks and challenges that lay ahead.

In Moscow, gay rights activists celebrated Pride by playing a game of cat-and-mouse with authorities and anti-gay foes. A small group of protesters led by rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev held pride flags and banners outside the famed Tchaikovsky music conservatory. They chanted, “No to homophobia,” and, “Tchaikovsky was gay.” A second demonstration was held at a building in front of Moscow's City Hall where a banner was hung reading “Rights For Gays and Lesbians – homophobia of mayor Luzhkov to be prosecuted.” Both demonstrations lasted only minutes before police arrived. The police detained 15 anti-demonstrators who had gathered around City Hall – assuming gay activists would rally there. Later 4 activists were arrested after the police broke down the door to an apartment. The demonstrations are what goes for Pride in Moscow since mayor Yuri Luzhkov called homosexuality “satanic.” Luzhkov has denied the group a parade license since 2006 and called the actions “criminal.”

In Rome, a Pride parade turned political soapbox as 10,000 marched through the city on Saturday, many of them chanting slogans against the Vatican and the new conservative government of Prime Minister Silivo Berlusconi. The new government is opposed to gay marriage. “Berlusconi kisses the Pope's slipper and says 'yes' to everything. We risk a theocracy and clerical dictatorship,” said Franco Grillini, an openly-gay politician who was a parliamentarian in the previous government.

In America, we have historic accomplishments to celebrate this year. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has said as president he would protect the rights of gays and lesbians, though he only supports civil unions for gay & lesbian couples. And in California gay marriage is set to become a reality on June 17th. The ruling by the California Supreme Court has pushed the issue in New York State where Governor David Paterson issued a memo instructing state agencies to recognize valid gay marriages performed elsewhere.

Here is a picture taken during a recent gay Pride celebration.

Yet, challenges remain – both in California and New York. A voter led referendum to outlaw gay marriage in California has qualified for the November ballot. The measure, if passed, would outlaw gay marriage by amending the state constitution to “provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court has denied issuing a stay in its ruling till November. Gay and lesbian couples then are left to ponder whether to marry between the months when it's certainly legal to wed or wait to see if the anti-gay measure passes.

Gay marriage is unconstitutional in New York, but Governor David Paterson told agencies to recognize valid gay marriages performed in Massachusetts, Canada and elsewhere. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization, has sued to stop New York from recognizing gay marriages.

And even as we celebrate gay & lesbian victories, transgender people continue to struggle. A PFLAG led national campaign for trans rights titled This Is Our Love Story kicks off this Pride season, bringing needed visibility to the issue. A PFLAG website, titled Transform The Movement, will come online later this summer. The site will highlight PFLAG's work in the transgender community and showcase the stories of transgender people who have worked with the organization on equality issues.

Longtime transsexual activist, actress, and author Calpernia Addams will serve as spokesperson for PFLAG's campaign. In an interview with On Top Magazine, she told us, “I hope This Is Our Love Story will help young transgender people as they come out. By seeing the happy, confident woman I've become, I hope I can act as a role model for these young people at a critical moment in their development.”

Walter Weeks is a writer for On Top Magazine can be reached at ww@ontopmag.com. The Gay Slant pops-in most Saturdays at On Top Magazine (www.ontopmag.com).

PS – Check-out our Pride Guide 2008 for information on events in major cities.