June is Pride Month, which means that Boston and cities across New England (and the country) are playing host to parades, festivals, and other events for LGBTQ communities. June has been an important month for the LGBTQ community for nearly five decades, and not just because of Pride. Whether you or your loved ones are going to the 48th annual Pride Parade Saturday in Boston, or an event elsewhere, here’s some context.
1. There are multiple Pride events in New England this month. Boston’s festivities continue through Sunday, with the parade and festival Saturday and block parties happening Saturday and Sunday. Providence holds its Pride celebration on June 16, and events in Portland, Maine, continue through June 17. Salem’s Pride events are held June 23, as are events in Portsmouth, N.H.
2. In Boston, Pride Parade weekend is Saturday and Sunday. The parade kicks off Saturday at noon in Copley Square and runs through the South End before arriving at a festival on City Hall Plaza. The Pride festival will be held on City Hall Plaza from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and includes a number of performances, exhibits, and food options. Boston Pride has a schedule on its website.
3. Similar events will be going on across the country. Throughout the month, several cities will have their own Pride events, including these.
4. It’s no coincidence that these events are in June. Nor is it a coincidence that so many cities hold their events at the end of the month. On June 28, 1969, patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village for the LGBTQ community, resisted a police raid. That event is often considered the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, not just in New York City but in the United States. A year later, the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee commemorated the Stonewall riots with the Gay Pride March. In 2015, The Stonewall Inn was named a city landmark. A year later, it was dedicated as the first national monument to gay rights. The Stonewall Inn and the night that made it iconic were featured in the 2015 movie “Stonewall,” though it was criticized for focusing on a fictional cisgender white male character rather than black and transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was considered instrumental in the riots, according to The Washington Post.
5. Boston and Massachusetts played significant roles as well. A year after the Pride March in New York, activists marched in Boston in June 1971. A few years later, the Gay Community News was founded. According to a 2013 essay in the Globe, the Gay Community News was headquartered on Bromfield Street and became an influential weekly newspaper with national reach and a reputation of exclusive reporting on gay issues in the 1970s.
Statewide, Massachusetts contributed several LGBTQ firsts. Elaine Noble was the country’s first openly gay state representative. US Representative Gerry E. Studds was the first openly gay member of Congress after he was outed in 1983. Congressman Barney Frank was one of the first politicians to come out publicly. And in May 2004, Massachusetts was the first state where same-sex couples could get legally married.
6. The rainbow flag that’s associated with the LGBTQ movement debuted at a Pride event 40 years ago this year. It was at a Pride parade in San Francisco that Gilbert Baker unveiled the first flags, which originally had eight colors, according to a New York Times obituary for Baker in 2017. Baker was a self-described “gay Betsy Ross” who had become known among his circle of friends for his creative banners, the Times wrote. Before the 1978 Pride parade, San Francisco city supervisor and gay rights leader Harvey Milk asked Baker to create something to represent the movement, the obituary explained. With help from volunteers, Baker made flags, with each stripe signifying something different, according to the obituary: “pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for peace, and purple for spirit.” The flag was later edited to six colors because of the expense of pink fabric, the Times wrote.
7. A new variation of the flag debuted in Philadelphia last year. Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs launched the #MoreColorMorePride campaign “in support of racial diversity, equality and inclusion in the LGBTQ neighborhoods of the city,” according to the office’s website. This included a new flag that had the six colors that had endured for decades, plus black and brown stripes. Reaction was mixed, with some people hailing the move as inclusive of people of color and others called the changes unnecessary.
8. June 26 has taken on significance. The US Supreme Court has issued some important decisions affecting the LGBTQ community, all on June 26. On June 26, 2003, a 6-to-3 ruling struck down state laws against sodomy. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act on a 5-to-4 vote. That same day, the Supreme Court also ruled that backers of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, lacked standing to defend the 2008 law because California’s governor and attorney general declined to defend the ban. And on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States. At the time, same-sex marriage was allowed in 36 states. The court’s ruling meant the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, would have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
9. June is not the only month that cities have Pride events. If you can’t make it to any of the events in June, there will be Pride events in September in Worcester, Hartford, and Vermont. In Boston, there have already been some Pride events, including Boston Black Pride in February and Boston Latinx Pride in April, according to Boston Pride’s website.
10. Pride Month is not the only important date for the LGBTQ community. Coming Out Day happens every Oct. 11, and October is History Month.