LGBTQ+ Communities Heritage Blog
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY IN SOUTHERN VERMONT – LGBTQ+ PRIDE Month
Pride Month is celebrated in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, aka the Stonewall Riots. At the time, the New York liquor authority routinely denied applications that were submitted by gay bars. This set those establishments up to be targeted and raided by police for operating without a liquor license. This fact, coupled with laws that made it illegal to be gay or lesbian and illegal for same sex couples to show public displays of affection, made the city a powder keg waiting to burst.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the police conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn. Enough was enough – and what followed was six-day of protests throughout “The Village”. Patrons, employees, and local residents joined together to stand up and fight oppression. Although the Stonewall uprising didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was a galvanizing force for LGBTQ+ political activism. It led to the creation of numerous gay rights organizations, including the Gay Liberation Front, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD (formerly Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
On June 28, 1970, the one-year anniversary of the riots, thousands of people marched from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park in what was then called “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” America’s first gay pride march. The march’s official chant was: “Say it loud, gay is proud.” Today, parades and marches are taking place across the country, and millions of Americans march in support of LGBTQ+ equal rights.
Flying outside of many homes and bars, pinned to shirts and on the back of bumpers—many will see the rainbow flag with the universal and proud proclamation that #LoveIsLove. Ever wonder who created it, and why it is the symbol of the LGBTQ+ communities?
In 1978, Gilbert Baker, an artist, designer, Vietnam War veteran, and then-drag performer was asked to create a flag for San Francisco’s annual pride parade by another gay icon, politician Harvey Milk. Baker had already been working on the idea two years prior during America’s bicentennial in 1976. He wanted to create something that would be a rallying sign for the gay community, something inspirational. He decided on the rainbow. The rest is history.
Comonwomon, August 1983. Courtesy of UVM Special Collections.
Comonwomon, August 1983. Courtesy of UVM Special Collections.
In the 21st Century, Vermont has been a leader in recognizing the rights of the LGBTQ+ communities, but that was not always true.
In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, LGBTQ+ Vermonters were used to traveling great distances for social events – or hosted them in private residences, in order to protect their anonymity and stay safe. Gathering places in Vermont were often discreet, based in private homes or, more rarely, public spaces, including bars like Hi Hat, Pearls, and the Taj Mahal in Burlington; Colors in Brattleboro; and the Andrews Inn in Bellows Falls.
The first publically sanctioned Pride March in Vermont was held in Burlington. A small group of organizers, including Leah Wittenberg, Lucy Gluck, Peggy Luhrs, Howard Russell, Jim Morgan, and Michiyo Fukaya, asked the Burlington Board of Aldermen (City Council) to declare June 25, 1983, Lesbian and Gay Pride Day. They also reached out to local businesses and individuals, asking for support – with mixed responses from the community. But – the City Council made the proclamation!
Within a year of the 1983 Pride Day, the organization “Vermonters for Lesbian and Gay Rights” was formed, and by 1986 Out in the Mountains was a newspaper serving the LGBTQ+ communities. The rally and march helped to empower an oppressed group.
VT History: Same-sex Couples’ Civil Union and Marriage
July 22, 1997: Same-sex couples, including Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, file a lawsuit in state court, seeking the freedom to marry in Vermont, Baker v. Vermont.
December 20, 1999: The Vermont Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring that the state must provide to same-sex couples the same “benefits and protections” that different-sex couples can receive.
March 15, 2000: Vermont legislature passes the United States’ first Civil Union law. Although a big step, it falls short of allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry and provides the full rights and protections that a marriage provides. Then-Governor Howard Dean signs the legislation into law.
April 7, 2009: Vermont becomes the fourth state in the U.S to affirm the freedom to marry when the Vermont Legislature overrides then-Governor Jim Douglas’ veto.
September 1, 2009: Same-sex couples are legally free to marry in Vermont.
June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.
Vermont and its residents continue to make great strides in recognizing the value and contributions of the LGBTQ+ communities, but there is still work to be done. Working together with open hearts and minds, creating equal opportunities for all, engaging in open dialogue, continued education, and addressing discriminatory actions and behavior, will allow progress, equal protection, and positive change.
CELEBRATING OUR LOCAL + STATE LEADERS / PAST AND PRESENT:
William Lippert, Jr. – State Representative
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, (left) shakes hands with state Rep. William Lippert at the Statehouse after Dean signed the civil union law on April 26, 2000. Toboy Talbot /AP
According to the Pride Center of Vermont, Bill Lippert has been an activist for LGBTQ+ rights since the 1970s. In April 1994, Bill was appointed by Governor Howard Dean to fill a vacant seat representing Hinesburg in the Vermont House of Representatives. Bill was elected to a full term in November 1994 and has been re-elected biennially ever since. He is a psychotherapist who led gay men’s support groups in the 1970s after coming to Vermont in 1972 and was part of the first Pride celebration in Vermont in 1983. In 1989, he was a founding board member of Outright Vermont. With David Curtis, Lippert founded the Samara Foundation (now the Samara Fund with the Vermont Community Foundation) in 1992. In 2000, as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Lippert was central to the drafting and passage of the civil unions law, at a time when he was the only openly gay legislator. Lippert continues as an activist and presence in LGBTQ+ politics in Vermont and on the national stage.
Brian Campion – State Senator
Senator Brian Campion of Bennington was elected to the Vermont State Senate in 2014. Prior to the Senate, Campion served two terms in the Vermont House of Representatives, first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. While a member of the House of Representatives, Campion served on the House Education Committee. He is the Director of Public Policy at the Elizabeth Coleman Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College.
Taylor Small – State Representative
TAYLOR SMALL of Winooski, VT, in Chittenden County, is a Progressive / Democrat. Small graduated from both Colchester High School and Burlington Technical Center in 2012. She then graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with a minor in sexuality and gender identity studies in 2016 and has lived in the greater Burlington area since. Small was elected as State Representative in November 2020, making her the first out transgender person to serve in the Vermont Legislature. She has a strong background in mental health services, community organizing, outreach, and cultural humility education. She now lives in Winooski with her partner and two dogs.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY THROUGH THE ARTS:
About Ryan Koss – Dorset Theatre Festival
Dorset Theatre Festival’s leadership team, executive director Marissa Hutton, marketing and development director Ryan Koss, artistic director Dina Janis, and producing director Will Rucker.
Ryan Koss and husband Will Rucker made Vermont their full-time home in 2017, married in the fall of 2019, and bought their home in Dorset in 2020. Having worked in the area with the Dorset Theatre Festival for the past 6 years, it only made sense that they would both fall in love with the area and make the move out of NYC. As Ryan notes “Will and I are 2/3rds of the festival’s full time leadership team, and this upcoming season will be Will’s 7th and my 6th producing season at the Festival.”
The Dorset Theatre Festival has a history of producing diverse stories on its stage and supports the work of diverse and queer artists and narratives including plays by Matthew Lopez, Travis Tate, and Christopher Durang.
In 2021, the Festival added the Community Inclusion Partner Program to its ticket access programs. To ensure all business owners, community organizers, and under-represented groups in the region have access to the world-class art being created in their own backyard, this program offers complimentary business sponsorships or exclusive ticket discounts for participating groups or organizations. This program targets:
- BIPOC, AAPI, and LGBTQ+ business owners
- Under-represented community groups, clubs, or networks.
- Cultural Affinity Groups
- Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Funds
- Civil Rights / Social Justice Organizations
- Cultural / Community Centers
CELEBRATING OUR REGIONAL AND LOCAL RESOURCES:
Founder Lisa Carton recognized the dire need to build a safe and inclusive LGBTQ+ community here in our corner of Vermont. Immediately after Queer Connect’s inception, they successfully planned and hosted the first ever Bennington Pride Weekend in June. From the start, Queer Connect has been committed to engaging with LGBTQ+ youth. It was them, in fact, that inspired Queer Connect into action by telling the group that they needed “to see adults like us out in the streets.” Queer Connect’s purpose is to provide visibility and resources for LGBTQ+ individuals and families, and they are devoted to making that a reality for the full community.
Pride Center of Vermont
Pride Center of Vermont (PCVT) is the region’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and the health and safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) Vermonters.
Out in the Open
Out in the Open connects rural LGBTQ+ people to build community, visibility, knowledge, and power. Based in the Wabanaki Confederacy in the town and state of Brattleboro, Vermont, the group works locally and regionally. They envision a resilient community of communities that works toward the transformation of their economic, social, and political relationships. They are building a multi-issue social justice movement of rural LGBTQ+ people.