The best gauge of the temperature on
gay and lesbian rights is the mood at the annual Gay Pride parade and
festival. Two festivals this weekend produce contradictory readings.
In Boston, the atmosphere is absolutely
exuberant as Massachusetts celebrates its fifth year of legalized gay
marriage and recent wins by its New England neighbors Vermont, New
Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered
the state in 2003 to legalize gay marriage after finding a state ban
unconstitutional. Social conservatives decried the ruling, calling
it an “activist” judgment and rallied for the Legislature to
bring the issue to a vote.
Opponents came close, but lawmakers
were reticent about altering the Massachusetts Constitution. Five
years on, the debate remains hot, though on a low flame.
Surveys currently suggest Massachusetts
voters would reject a gay marriage ban. That majority continues to
build – and is expected to accelerate as neighboring states adopt
gay marriage – and because it would take several years for a
constitutional amendment to reach the ballot box, the right of gay
men and lesbians to marry appears safe in the state.
Over the past several years Boston Gay
Pride organizers have begun shifting their focus away from gay
marriage. This year's theme is “Trans-forming our Community,”
which dovetails with transgender protection legislation currently
“It's about time that we stand up and
stand behind our trans families, our transgender allies and friends
and colleagues and coworkers and neighbors,” Boston City Council
President Mike Ross recently said.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles' Gay Pride is
certain to be marred with the ghost of Proposition 8, the 2008
voter-approved measure that banned gay marriage and was recently
upheld by the California Supreme Court as constitutional. Gay
activists have vowed to return in 2010 with a new measure that would
reestablish gay marriage in the Golden State.
While LA Gay Pride 2008 surrendered to
last year's gay marriage victory, a year later 40,000 revelers will
set aside a star-studded party featuring Fantasia, Expose and Deborah
Cox for a moment of silence, a moment to remember the loss.
In LA there is little room for any
other GLBT issue. The mood is somber in the gay community, a fact
not lost on Gay Pride marketers who ask “Inequality got you down?”
in a promotional video. “LIFT YOURSELF UP! With Pride 365,” the
video suggests, and ends with a “NO H8” protester.
Two cities, two Gay Pride parades, two
coasts, and two outcomes: Massachusetts moves forward on new
challenges after securing the right to marry, while the fight for
marriage equality in California continues down a winding path with no
end in sight.
Welcome to Gay Pride 2009, as divided
as the nation on gay marriage.