Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, and their allies, took to the streets June 7 in the annual Motor City Pride parade. Thousands more attended the weekend-long celebration in downtown Detroit.
While the parade and festival celebrated the many aspects of LGBTQ pride, community and culture, organizers acknowledged that the fight against discrimination is not over. “The way we put it, ‘Married on Saturday, fired on Monday,’” said Bill Greene, interim executive director of Pride sponsor Equality Michigan. “People are coming out more, getting married. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan lags behind many states in its friendliness to the LGBT community.” Equality Michigan is the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization that is currently fighting to get LGBTQ protections added to state civil rights laws.
The marriage equality fight was in the spotlight this year, particularly in Michigan, with a Supreme Court ruling expected by the end of this month on whether marriage bans in Michigan and three other states are unconstitutional. A positive ruling will make same-sex marriage legal in the 13 states where bans still remain in place. Festival goers cheered April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Detroit-area nurses and plaintiffs in the Michigan marriage case, as they strolled the grounds with their four adopted children.
Members of the Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs, Workers World Party and the revolutionary youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together marched together with signs supporting the right to marry and declaring that “Black + Trans Lives Matter.” Their booth attracted a steady stream of visitors interested in fighting capitalism.
Other progressive forces that marched and tabled include Metro AFL-CIO, the union UNITE HERE, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. A stronger presence, however, from organized labor would strengthen the fight for equality in this state, where a reactionary Legislature continues to pass bills attacking the LGBTQ community. The United Auto Workers, for example, has not had a contingent, and this in the city where the union was founded 80 years ago.
Pride, which celebrates the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, has become commercialized over the years. The grand marshall for this year’s parade was not even a person but a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicle, acknowledging FCA’s sponsorship.
The Human Rights Campaign gives FCA a rating of 100 percent on its scorecard of LGBTQ issues. This writer, a 28-year Chrysler UAW worker, disagrees, as the company does not provide family leave for same-sex partners where marriage is not recognized and does not have contract or policy language to cover anti-transgender discrimination.
Nevertheless, the parade was a strong statement of the willingness of the LGBTQ community to keep up the fight for full equality.