Ask Lambda Legal: Pride Season

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Know the laws in your state that protect LBGT people and people living with HIV.
June 7, 2012
Lambda Legal staff and volunteers and New York City Pride 2011

Every year, Lambda Legal’s Help Desk receives calls from members of our community who say that local officials are putting barricades in the way of their annual pride festivals. This article is a reprint of last year’s Ask Lambda Legal: Pride Season.

Q: My city has been holding an LGBT pride celebration for years now, but this year, we are being told that we cannot get a permit to have our annual parade. What should I do?

A: We’ve dealt with situations like this before. Unfortunately, government officials who seek political gain often do so on the backs of the LGBT community by using religion or a personal definition of morality to denounce LGBT events. But don’t worry, there are laws to protect your right to celebrate pride.

Gay Pride parades play an important role in bringing our communities together and celebrating our lives, affirming our equal dignity and shedding the shame of a less enlightened past. Allowing government officials to discriminate against organizers of these events by denying city resources — whether it be permits, police or equipment — not only contradicts the very purpose of Pride events but also exposes all LGBT persons to potential discrimination. Lambda Legal is committed to challenging government officials who discriminate against Pride events by refusing to provide the city services and resources necessary to hold these events.

Over forty years ago, the uprising at Stonewall Inn marked the beginning of the LGBT movement that has continued to shift culture and change laws, and since then there have been several cases that have tested the rights of LGBT people to hold parades and events. Pride celebrations are part of your constitutional right to free speech. The Constitution should protect your right, under the equal protection clause, to be free from discrimination. In 2009, Lambda Legal successfully settled a lawsuit on behalf of Central Alabama Pride (CAP) against the City of Birmingham when the mayor interfered with the group’s right to free speech by refusing to allow city workers to attach Pride banners on city poles as it did for every other group.

This pride season, LGBT people around the country are organizing various celebrations of our communities. From marches down Main St. to parties on the pier, pride organizers should remember that they are entitled to the same resources, and to be treated in the same fashion, as any other group in their town.

Please note that this is not legal advice. If you’ve been having trouble with government officials when organizing the pride celebrations in your town or if you were harassed by protestors at pride, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk or a local attorney.

Ask Lambda Legal, Pride