Staff and supporters of American Jewish World Service hit the streets of New York City last week, joining the NYC Pride March and serving as the Jewish voice for LGBTI rights worldwide.
My colleagues and I were so excited to show our pride, celebrate the latest victory in the struggle for marriage equality in the U.S. (the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8) and make it clear that our work will not be done until the human rights of people of all sexual orientations are respected worldwide.
The first NYC Pride March was held in 1970, and the event has become a popular annual celebration and civil rights demonstration. This year, an estimated 2 million people lined the streets of New York City to cheer on about 300 different groups that marched and danced in support of LGBTI rights. The crowd was particularly lively because of the historic news from the Supreme Court, which came just days before the march, giving federal benefits to same-sex married couples and clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California.
As we marched down Fifth Avenue with our AJWS banner, we were thrilled to and touched to hear so many people calling out, “Mazel tov!” and “I love Jews!”
Still, we marched with the knowledge that those of us who live in relative physical and emotional safety bear the responsibility of making sure that rights for LGBTI people become a reality everywhere—not just in the United States. In many parts of the world, supporting rights for LGBTI people comes with acute risk. In January 2011, David Kato, a Ugandan LGBTI activist and one of the most visible and vocal defenders of human rights for LGBTI Ugandans, was brutally murdered. Kato worked closely with AJWS’s Ugandan grantees to voice opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a piece of proposed legislation that would strengthen existing penalties against homosexuality and make same-sex relations in Uganda punishable by time in prison and even death.
Did you know that AJWS is the eighth largest funder of LGBTI rights around the world? We’ve granted nearly $5 million to 50 organizations promoting the rights of LGBTI people in 18 countries. As we revel in recent victories here in the U.S., we’re also renewing our commitment to fight for justice and equality for LGBTI people everywhere. There’s still a long way to go, but we have a lot to be proud of and a record to build on. We hope that you’ll join us.
Elizabeth Daube is a communications officer at American Jewish World Service.