Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pride Arrives in January



No, it’s not yet June with its clammy hot weather and the Pride parade and festival just around the corner.  Instead, it’s January—in the dead of winter but it feels like Pride has arrived already.
As the clock ticked past midnight on New Year’s Eve into 2013, we celebrated scores of gay and lesbian weddings that were made legal by Maryland’s voters selecting love over bigotry.  There was a sweeping amount of pride by those in the LGBT community who although they may not have yet participated in this momentous life-changing development, saw it as a victory for Maryland’s gay and lesbian families after years of hard work and near-misses.

While these nuptials and engagements were taking place during and after January 1, our community became ecstatic over the playoff run by our hometown darlings of the gridiron, the Baltimore Ravens.  First, the methodical dispatching of the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 at M&T Bank Stadium sent the Ravens to the next round.  They were inspired by the announced retirement of Ray Lewis.
A week later, following a stunning overtime thriller over the much-favored Denver Broncos on the frigid turf of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Baltimore began getting its purple on in earnest.  Enthusiasm that had been dormant earlier in the season, sprung loose as soon as mighty Joe Flacco’s miracle pass to Jacoby Jones in the game’s last 30 seconds tied the score that was eventually won by a Justin Tucker field goal moments into the second overtime period.

Next on tap was a rematch with the dreaded New England Patriots and Tom Brady on January 20.  As Ravens fans well remember, a year ago at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the Ravens were a TD catch in the final seconds from winning the AFC Conference championship, but the ball was stripped away from then Ravens receiver Lee Evans.  Seconds later a botched field goal try by Billy Cundiff sealed the fate as Baltimore, who outplayed the Pats, left in defeat.  It was a bitter setback.
But this year, Purple Pride showed up in January and as a result of the Broncos upset, the underdog Ravens had their chance at redemption at Foxboro.  The same battle for the title and a trip to the Super Bowl awaited a more confident Ravens squad, and it showed.

They were on a mission, and after a rather sleepy first half trailing 13-7, the purple giant awoke.  Reeling off 21 unanswered points led by a stingy defense and another sterling performance by Flacco and his offense, the Ravens prevailed 28-13, and off to the Super Bowl we go!
With just a night’s sleep to savor this unlikely season and a momentous January so far, we saw history made at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama merely 15 hours later.  There was an abundance of pride as the first African-American president who proved it was no fluke with his reelection, took the oath of office for his second term on Martin Luther King Day no less. 

Then his inaugural address brought more pride in January.  For the first time in history, a U.S. president included references to LGBT equality and gay rights in an inaugural speech.  He mentioned Stonewall, Seneca Falls and Selma in the same sentence, equating gay rights with women’s rights and civil rights for African-Americans.  That is a huge step forward and a source of deep pride in reflecting upon the decades of struggles that led to this point.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth,” he said.
The president added, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” 

These words were beautiful to listen to and a validation of our cause.  As he had demonstrated time and time again in his first term, President Obama has been a consistent ally for LGBT rights and a source of pride.  From the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to his endorsement of marriage equality to appointing more openly LGBT officials than any other president, Mr. Obama has given our movement a dynamic push, while our country is coming along faster than anyone expected.
These were incredible events that have galvanized our community and allies.  Sure, football is just a game played by rich men for even richer owners.  So what?  Civic pride is an effective and welcome antidote to the day-to-day problems that beset us.  It is also inspiring.  The Ravens are underdogs who show us that with hard work anyone could overcome adversity and succeed. 

Barack Obama was also an underdog with an unconventional family and childhood.  Look what he had to overcome.  And look what he is accomplishing for “our gay brothers and sisters.” 
Equality pride, purple pride and presidential pride.  They’re not related but connected nonetheless.  A prideful January to be sure.

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