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LGBTQ+ Pride Month is starting to show its colors around the world. What to know

Pride Month, the global celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and rights, kicks off Saturday with events around the world.

But this year’s festivities in the US will take place against the backdrop of dozens of new state laws aimed at LGBTQ+ rights, particularly transgender youth.

Here are things you need to know about the celebrations and the politics surrounding them.

WHY IS JUNE PRIDE MONTH?

The month-long global celebration began in late June 1970 with Gay Pride Week, a public celebration marking the first anniversary of the violent police raid on New York’s Stonewall Inn, a gay bar.

At a time when LGBTQ+ people were largely keeping their identities or orientation quiet, the June 28, 1969 raid sparked a series of protests and catalyzed the rights movement.

During the first pride week, there were marches in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, and the numbers have grown since then. Some events fall outside of June: Tokyo’s Rainbow Pride was in April and Rio de Janeiro has a big event in November.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

WHAT IS CELEBRATING?

Pride’s signature rainbow-laden parades and festivals celebrate the progress the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement has made.

In April, a US federal appeals court ruled that North Carolina and West Virginia’s refusal to cover certain health care for transgender people with government-sponsored insurance is discriminatory.

In a March settlement, a settlement of legal challenges to a Florida legal critic called “Don’t Say Gay” clarifies that teachers can have photos on their desks of their same-sex partners and books with LGBTQ+ themes. It also says that books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes can remain in campus libraries and that gay-straight alliance chapters in schools do not have to be forced underground.

Greece legalized same-sex marriage this year, one of three dozen countries in the world to do so, and a similar law passed in Estonia in June 2023 came into effect this year.

WHAT IS BEING PROTESTED?

Rights have been lost around the world, including harsh prison sentences for gays and transgender people in Iraq and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” in Uganda. More than 60 countries have anti-LGBTQ+ laws, advocates say.

The tightening of these laws has contributed to the flow of people from Africa and the Middle East seeking asylum in Europe.

In recent years, Republican-controlled US states have variously adopted policies targeting LGBTQ+ people, and transgender people in particular.

Twenty-five states now have laws banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Some states have taken other measures, with laws or policies primarily keeping transgender girls and women out of restrooms and sports matches that match their gender.

GOP attorneys general have challenged a federal regulation, set to take effect in August, that would ban bathroom bans in schools. There have also been attempts to ban or regulate drag performances.

Most policies face legal challenges.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, leading to restrictive abortion laws in most Republican Party-controlled states, LGBTQ+ advocates have also been concerned about losing ground, said Kevin Jennings, CEO of nonprofit civil rights organization Lambda Legal. On the eve of Pride, the organization announced a fundraising goal of $180 million so that more advocates could challenge anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

Progress like the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide could be lost without political and legal vigilance, Jennings said.

“Our community is looking at what has happened to reproductive rights thanks to the Dobbs decision two years ago and is deeply concerned about whether we are on the verge of a massive rollback of what we have achieved in the 55 years since Stonewall,” Jennings said.

What about companies?

While major companies from Apple to Wells Fargo sponsor events in the US, a setback last year sent ripples at a major discount retailer.

Target sold Pride-themed items last June, but removed some from stores and moved displays to the back of some locations after customers knocked them over and confronted employees. The company then faced additional backlash from customers angry that the retailer was pandering to people who had prejudices against LGBTQ+ people.

This year, the store said it won’t offer the items in all its stores. But the company remains a major sponsor of NYC Pride.

ARE EVENTS SAFE?

Keeping the events safe is the top priority, organizers said, but there may be challenges.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory in May that foreign terrorist organizations could target Pride-related events. That same month, the State Department renewed a safety alert for Americans abroad, especially LGBTQ+ people and events worldwide.

Law enforcement officials noted that ISIS sympathizers were arrested last year for trying to attack a June 2023 Pride parade in Vienna and that ISIS messages last year called on followers to attack “soft targets.”

The agencies say people should always be wary of threats made online, in person or by mail. People should be aware if someone tries to enter a restricted area, bypass security or impersonate law enforcement and call 911 for emergencies and report threats to the FBI.

NYC Pride has heavy security and partners with city agencies outside the perimeter, said Sandra Perez, the event’s executive director. The group expects 50,000 people to march in the June 30 parade and more than 1.5 million people to watch.

“The struggle for liberation is not over yet,” Perez said. “The need to be visible and the need to be aware of what we need to do to ensure that future generations don’t have to go through this struggle is really paramount.”

Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press

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