My Lincoln-inspired keynote speech kicking off World Pride in White Plains
Remarks of Joann Prinzivalli at the
2019 Westchester Pride Flag Raising
White Plains, New York, June 2, 2019
A half century ago, transgender, gay and lesbian people at the Stonewall Inn defiantly rose up in resistance against police oppression. From the resulting riot, gay liberation organizations conceived the movement for LGBTQ human rights, dedicated to the proposition that we, too, are created equal.
As we stand here today, we still engage in that struggle for civil rights so long denied to us. It is a test of our resolve to achieve justice and bring life to the aspirational founding principles of our nation that all are entitled to certain inalienable rights, We have come far in gaining our rights here in Westchester County, in our State, and in several other states. We have marriage equality in the state and the nation, but the struggle continues, nationally and in many other states, as the opponents of equality and justice are emboldened by the current federal administration in its work against human rights and dignity – they deny transgender people the right to serve in the military, they allow doctors, hospitals and medical professionals to refuse to provide treatment to LGBTQ people on so-called “religious” grounds, they allow homeless shelters to refuse accommodation to transgender people, they deny U.S. citizenship to newborn children of gay American citizen parents just because they were delivered outside the country through surrogacy. The current federal administration chisels away at our civil rights with a “death of a thousand cuts.” And our community is not the only target of their wrath.
We gather here today to raise the Rainbow Flag as a symbol of that promise of equality that is a bedrock American principle, and to celebrate our victories – including this year’s enactment of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. We resolve to continue the work toward justice and equality in the face of oppression, so that our civil rights movement, so conceived and so dedicated, may prevail against the forces of darkness.
In a larger sense, we are not alone in our dedication to the struggle – we stand on the shoulders of the giants who took those first steps fifty years ago, and on the shoulders of those who have continued to incubate that journey toward justice.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, paraphrasing 19th century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To this I can add a firm belief that this arc does not bend on its own – it requires the hard work of people, like the people gathered here today, to continue to bend that arc toward justice, and toward universal respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.The words that are said here today may soon be forgotten, but as we celebrate the achievements we have won and the work that has been done, we dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work, and we remember those who have gone before us and are not forgotten – we pledge that that their work and our work shall not have been in vain, and that we will prevail. We must be the midwives to enact the promises of the Declaration of Independence to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so that they are not merely hollow, empty, myths without substance – making America a true beacon of hope shining our light to the world.