June 7, 2019

Marches, Lawsuits, and Wedding Dresses: My Personal Fight for Gay Rights

Professor Marieka M. Klawitter

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City when gay, lesbian, and transgender patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against on-going police harassment.  Gay pride parades commemorate this anniversary and the start of the gay rights movement in the United States.  Although I wasn’t old enough to participate in Stonewall, I’ve seen so much change in the fight for gay rights in my adult life.

In 1983, I walked in the first gay pride march held in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  After the march, a person was arrested for pointing a rifle at participants, including myself.

In 1989, I volunteered for the first gay pride parade in Madison, Wisconsin—it was May, and it snowed.

In 1995, Victor Flatt and I first used the 1990 U.S. Census data, which for the first time allowed us to identify people in same-sex couples and to match them with state and local data to see if they were covered by anti-discrimination policies for sexual orientation.  [Gender identity was included later in these laws!]

In 1994, I volunteered to be a party in a lawsuit to block a state initiative that would have prohibited schools from “presenting homosexuality as acceptable.” This was based on a sexual orientation and public policy course that Victor Flatt and I were teaching.

In 1998, the Evans School threw a baby shower for the adoption of my kid—truly an awesome demonstration of acceptance.

The 2000 U.S. Census data showed 300% more people reported being in same sex couples than in 1990—showing how many more were willing to come out.  And, the number of people covered by antidiscrimination laws more than doubled.

In 2012, I rode my bike to work in a full-length, white wedding gown and veil to celebrate the passage of Washington State’s legislation legalizing same sex marriage.

Now, I celebrate Pride month with a new generation of Evans School students who teach us every day about new ways of thinking about and expressing gender, identity, and sexuality.  Happy Pride Month!

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