Opinion: NH needs a new statewide LGBTQ group

Published: 6/30/2022 7:02:53 AM
Modified: 6/30/2022 7:00:14 AM

Linds Jakows is the former campaign manager of Freedom New Hampshire. Palana Hunt-Hawkins is the former Trans Justice Organizer with the ACLU-NH.

Standing at Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke last weekend in community with thousands of people, it was easy to forget that Pride Month did not originate as a family-friendly, corporate-adjacent celebration of the LGBTQ community. In fact, Pride Month as we know it today began in June 1969, when patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn fought back against decades of oppression and mistreatment.

In post-World War II America, hyper-vigilant for communism, the LGBTQ community was targeted. This moral panic was followed by renewed efforts to prohibit military service by gay men and ultimately, the purging of five thousand gay and lesbian people from government jobs and military service by order of President Eisenhower in 1953. Municipalities nationwide then passed ordinances requiring trans and gender non-conforming peoples to wear clothing associated with their gender assigned at birth. Bars frequented by LGBTQ folks were routinely targeted by law enforcement, who would assess patrons’ legal identification and gender expression and arrest violators of the ordinance.

The NYPD lost control of patrons of the Stonewall Inn on June 27, 1969, when a brick, thrown by someone protesting their arrest, turned a mass arrest into a riot. The hundreds of people at the bar, mostly trans people of color, quickly turned into thousands in the streets. That night outside the bar turned into a week in the street, which became a yearly and global march that brought together the early LGBTQ movement. The movement fought to pass proactive civil rights ordinances that included LGBTQ people, worked to repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships, and called for funding, not stigma, to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Over much of the last two decades, New Hampshire has consistently led the nation in LGBTQ-affirming policies. Our state achieved marriage equality in 2009, six years ahead of the Supreme Court ruling that brought it to the rest of the nation. New Hampshire also adopted sexual orientation non-discrimination protections in the 90s and comprehensive gender identity non-discrimination protections in 2018, something that only exists nationally regarding employment via a 2020 Supreme Court ruling.

Some incredible organizations have pushed this work along. The Citizens Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Rights got things going in the 80s. Marriage equality and gender identity non-discrimination were made a reality by the NH Freedom To Marry and Freedom New Hampshire coalitions respectively. Organizations like ACLU-NH, GLAD, Rights & Democracy, Granite State Progress, New Futures, Planned Parenthood, and NAMI-NH have all stepped up to advocate for LGBTQ folks over the last few years, and have all done a fantastic job doing it.

But since those organizations work on a multitude of issues, New Hampshire needs a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the LGBTQ progress that has been made and building a path forward.

Just this year, there were well over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills filed nationwide in 2022 including four here in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire School Board Association rescinded its model trans student policy in February after being spooked by a series of lawsuits targeting schools with trans-affirming policies. A repeal of the state’s conversion therapy ban was dangerously close to passing the New Hampshire House of Representatives in March. Yet another ban on trans women and girls playing sports got far too close to a vote on the House floor. And the U.S. Supreme Court just overturned Roe v Wade, with Justice Thomas making clear that the legal precedent on which Roe was based also threatens same-sex marriage, relationships, and the right to birth control.

While all of this has been happening, there has been no central organization to coordinate statewide LGBTQ advocacy in New Hampshire. We cannot wait any longer. Escalating attacks on bodily autonomy, trans youth, and trans health care have left the community reeling this year. Not only do we need to defend what has been achieved, but continue pushing forward as a unified front.

Enter: 603 Equality, a new organization that will work to advance, and not just defend, LGBTQ equality in New Hampshire.

Folks, it’s beginning to feel a lot like the first Pride. This time, let’s use our bricks to collaboratively build a path to intersectional LGBTQ liberation. Not just justice for some, not just the LGBs, not just the bigger cities of the state, not just for white folks, but justice for all.

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