Loud & Proud – Pride Prevails Over Prejudice

After two years of virtual events due to COVID, it was so good to dust off my rainbow sneakers and share the joy of the Portland Pride Parade in person. Marching side-by-side with members and allies of Oregon’s LGBTQ+ community (including a visit to the PRISM health center and the famous Sports Bra bar), I was reminded that today and every day, it's essential to ensure that pride prevails over prejudice throughout our country.

As a proud champion of LGBTQ+ rights, I was the first member of the United States Senate to publicly campaign for marriage equality in 1996. Back then, too many Americans feared the consequences of coming out or being outed to their employers, landlords, educators and service providers. While marriage equality has since been upheld as the law of the land, it remains abundantly and painfully clear – from the increasing number of anti-trans and anti-gay bills passing in state legislatures across the country – that the United States has a long road ahead toward achieving true “liberty and justice for all.”

As the first federal Juneteenth holiday shared a weekend with Pride, I reflected on the “good trouble” made in U.S. history by powerful civil rights figures like Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin and John Lewis. In the wake of a mass shooting in Buffalo that killed ten Black people and injured three, reminders of joy, freedom and celebration are crucial to shore up forces to get into good trouble – good trouble to protect voting rights, make criminal justice reform, fight for common-sense gun laws, and root out systemic oppression in all its forms.

In Oregon, Juneteenth has been celebrated long before the federal government got its act together to officially designate it as a federal holiday. Thanks to the tireless effort of the late, great Clara Peoples, this weekend in Oregon marked 50 years of Juneteenth celebrations in Portland. Clara’s legacy continues thanks to the work of her daughters Jenelle and Jennifer. And Juneteenth Oregon demonstrates the collaboration and community building needed to tackle our state’s most pressing equity issues.

We must ensure Americans who have felt the weight of systemic oppression have equal access to programs and services free from prejudice and build equal rights for all, regardless of who they love or how they identify. That’s why I’m a proud cosponsor of the EQUALITY Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and more that acknowledge our nation’s unequal history, then move to take our shared dignity and humanity – and enshrine it in law.