PAWs - Promoting Awareness and Wellness

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.

June 2010

Gay and Lesbian Pride Month
This month Ashford University celebrates June as national Gay and Lesbian Pride month.

The month of June was first declared Gay and Lesbian Pride month by President William Jefferson Clinton on June 2, 2000. In part, the president's historic proclamation read:

"Our Nation is at last realizing that gays and lesbians must no longer be "strangers among friends," …Rather, we must finally recognize these Americans for what they are: our colleagues and neighbors, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends and partners."

- President William J. Clinton

In 2009 President Barack Obama once again honored June as national Gay and Lesbian Pride month.
"As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." 

- President Barack H. Obama

To read each proclamation in its entirety please visit:

Gay Rights Movement — Beginnings
As recent in our history as 1962, laws existed in all 50 states criminalizing homosexuality. There were no large national political organizations dedicated to protecting LGBT Americans. All 50 states allowed a person to be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes simply for being identified as gay or lesbian. Gay and Lesbian Americans were often the target of institutionalized harassment. Police were frequently used in raids against establishments patronized by the gay and lesbian community. In New York City, the names and faces of those arrested in such places were routinely printed in local newspapers, often at the behest of local authorities. Being publically identified as gay or lesbian had the potential to devastate a person's career, their relationships, and their financial interests.

On June 27, 1969, a small establishment in New York City's Greenwich Village became the central rallying point for a people's struggle for civil rights and equal treatment under the law. At the Stonewall Inn, what is known today as the gay rights movement was born.

The New York City police department raided the Stonewall Inn, a small unassuming gay bar on Christopher Street that night. On this night, as with many other nights before it, many of the Stonewall Inn's patrons were harassed, beaten, and arrested. Unlike many other nights, however, the men of the Stonewall Inn refused to go quietly. Instead of simply allowing themselves to be taken by the police, the patrons and employees of the Stonewall Inn fought back. Shouts of "Gay Power" rang out as growing crowds of onlookers watched as the Stonewall patrons resisted. What began as active resistance soon became a riot and what is now referred to as the "Stonewall Riots." Citizens of New York protested discrimination for more than a week with each night's crowds being larger than the one before it. One full year after the riots at the Stonewall Inn, 10,000 people from across the country gathered to march in remembrance.

The march of remembrance changed what it was like to be gay in America. In place of the constant fear and embarrassment of being forcibly 'outed,' gay and lesbian Americans chose instead to 'out' themselves. The march of 1970 not only served to remember Stonewall but also to show that they were not ashamed of who they were, but, were indeed, proud. The march of pride was the first of what is today known as the Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade.

The late activist and politician Harvey Milk gave a speech titled, "That's What America Is," in which he remarked on Stonewall and the need for a continued fight for equality, "On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country…We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets...We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives…" - from The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (Shilts, 1982)

To learn more about the Stonewall Inn, please visit:

Changes in our National Dialogue — A Timeline

The American Psychological Association (APA) removes homosexuality from their list of mental illnesses. Since 1973, the APA has normalized homosexual orientations and has dismissed any notion of homosexuality being a disease or an illness in need of a cure.

1978: Harvey Milk, 'the mayor of Castro,' is assassinated. His murderer uses the 'Twinkie defense' and is sentenced to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. His conviction leads to the White Night Riots.

1998: Matthew Shepard, a young man attending the University of Wyoming, was tortured, beaten, and tied to a fence; left to die in a remote part of town simply because he was gay. Matthew dies from his injuries five days later. The story of his death is told all over the world through a project known as the 'Laramie Project.'

2003: The Supreme Court of the United States strikes down all laws criminalizing homosexuality. The case is known as Lawrence v Texas.

2004: Massachusetts becomes the first state to allow gays and lesbians to form legally recognized familial relationships through marriage.

2009: The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is signed into law. This law extends federal hate crimes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

2010: The District of Columbia joins 5 states in recognizing Marriage Equality.

The T in LGBT
President Barack Obama was the first President in US history to officially recognize and honor the contributions of the transsexual community by including them in his recognition of June as LGBT pride month. Official recognition of the transgender community translates to a greater awareness of their lives, who they are as people, and how they fit into the patchwork of communities that make up our national identity.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines transgendered persons as those "whose gender identity (sense of themselves as male or female) or gender expression differs from that usually associated with their birth sex." The APA goes on to say "anyone whose identity, appearance, or behavior falls outside of conventional gender norms can be described as transgender. However, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-atypical will identify as a transgender person."

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was established to remember those who have died from acts of hatred toward the community. As of 2010 only 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, have laws protecting its transgender citizens against discrimination. Unfortunately, detailed crime statistics against the transgender community are not regularly kept by the federal government and no completely accurate account of crimes against the community are available.
To learn more about the transgender community please visit:

Symbols of Pride
Over the past 40 years, the GLBT community has adopted many symbols of expression. Two nearly universally recognized symbols of the Gay and Lesbian Pride movement are shown below.

The Rainbow Flag
The rainbow flag as we currently know it was created by a San Francisco artist by the name of Gilbert Baker. The many colors of the rainbow flag symbolize 'unity in diversity' noting the movement's increasingly inclusive nature; having brought into itself the queer, transgendered, and intersex communities. The flag came to prominence as a symbol of strength, unity, and support to the LGBT community after the murder of Harvey Milk, a leader of the gay civil rights movement.

The Pink Triangle
Paragraph 175, a previously unenforced civil code dating back to the late 1800s outlawing homosexuality in Germany was resurrected under the National Socialist Party which took control of Germany in 1933. The Nazi party, as they were known, revived Paragraph 175 in their campaign to 'purify' German culture and reinforce 'German family values.' Homosexuals were declared 'socially aberrant' and inherently 'anti-German.' As a result of the Nazi Party's crusade to 'protect' German society from homosexuals, nearly 100,000 gay men were arrested, subjected to torture, medical experimentation, and physical mutilation. Tens of thousands of these gay men were sent to Nazi concentration camps. As with all prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, homosexual men were forced to wear a symbol denoting their crime; the symbol for homosexual was the pink triangle.

To learn more about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany please visit:

For more information about gay and lesbian history, volunteer and advocacy work, and ways you can help please visit the sites listed below:

***Thanks to all of the listed websites for their knowledge and availability to share it with others***

June 2010