“Gay as the 4th of July”

man_with_flagOn July 4, 1965, 40 gay and lesbian activists protested outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, in what is widely considered to be the first LGBT civil rights demonstration.

To honor the 50th anniversary of that historic protest, Philadelphia is celebrating LGBT rights this Fourth of July. To add to the already-monumental occasion, this will also be the first July 4 on which every same-sex couple in America will be free to marry.

Gay-Marriage-Cookies-4It’s only natural — if not necessary — to celebrate both the anniversary of American Independence and LGBT rights this Fourth of July, not just in Philadelphia, but in every city across America.

Every year, July 4 marks the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The statement, which announced the formation of the United States of America as sovereign states from Great Britain (aka, kind of a big deal) says:

All men (and should include women ) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator (Hum, the jury is out on this one) with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Those are some pretty epic words right there, the very words that set our great nation apart in the international community, that give weight to the theory of American exceptionalism. Except they’re a farce. In fact, there’s a big problem with how we’ve been celebrating the Declaration of Independence for the last 239 years.

Not all Americans could enjoy such unalienable rights, nor could they pursue the same kind of happiness that others could.

These Americans are part of the LGBT community, and until last week, they’d been excluded from the promises laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

But that all changed when the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage a Constitutional right in all 50 states, marking the biggest milestone in the LGBT civil rights movement’s 50-year history.

bannerprideimagesI am reminded of last year listening to the gay men’s chorus singing the National Anthem in a gay bar in D.C. following the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

I am reminded of singing along with the chorus, with tears in my eyes, “o’er the land of the FREE,” and the raucous applause breaking out at the word “free.”

Those are the kind of memories you hold for the rest of your life.

Do we live in a world where the majority of our LGBT youth won’t have to understand that pain? No. Not yet. But we took a step toward it. It feels closer now.

There will be LGBT youth who won’t understand a world without same-sex marriage.

So this 4th of July, as I take a break from contemplating it all – the long road ahead, the continued oppression of many in my community, the injustice we have yet to root out as well as our rather Orange (Not My ) President – I want to take a moment of grateful silence for the LGBT activists who marched but never got to see this day.

And before we resume the fight, I want to take a moment of peace. It is a peace so many have fought for, a peace not yet accessible to all of us, and where it exists, we must embrace and cherish it.

Gay-4th-of-July-Events

Though SCOTUS’s decision was timed during Pride Month and right before the Pride March and anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, there is another day all Americans should spend celebrating our newfound marriage equality — because, after all, American independence and LGBT independence are not two separate things.

This Fourth of July, we can truly honor the Declaration of Independence because all Americans are finally included in its set of ideals. Here are nine ways to celebrate both American independence and LGBT rights.

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  • Make a Spotify playlist of songs about freedom, mixed with some Liza and Barbra classics
  • Include rainbow flags among the countless American flags
  • Replace the smiley fireworks with rainbow fireworks — nobody is ever impressed with the smiley faces anyway
  • Rewrite the Declaration of Independence in the context of LGBT rights — replace “all men are created equal” with “all men, women, transgender men and women, and any other gender identity are created equal;” replace “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States” with “The history of right-wing conservatives is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of inequality in these States”
  • Have a movie marathon of both gay classics, like The Birdcage and Milk, and extremely patriotic movies, like The Patriot and Independence Day
  • Create a trivia game with questions about both the founding of America and the LGBT civil rights movement
  • Dress up as the Founding Fathers as if they were LGBT rights advocates (rainbow-colored powdered wig, anyone?)
  • The ultimate celebration of your unalienable rights on the Fourth of July? Get married!

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