June 2012

Promoting Awareness and Wellness (PAWs)

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 2012 – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month

gay pride flag
The Pride flag originated in California and has been in use since the 1970s. Its rainbow colors symbolize the diversity of the LGBT community.

The past fifty years have seen lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) pride and recognition grow from being under-the-radar into a widely celebrated and globally appreciated movement. The last decade has particularly and consistently echoed the sentiment that the LGBTQ community should be treated equally. This movement has advanced the cause of equality more rapidly than any other civil rights movement in history. The appeal for advocacy and equality has steadily gained momentum and is now being reflected not only in our country’s popular culture but also in our policies and laws. (June, n.d.)

LGBTQ pride” is a term used to describe the philosophy affirming that those in the LGBTQ community have an undeniable right to be proud of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This month of June, which President Obama declared in 2011 to be LGBTQ Pride Month, we’ll take a look at the history of gay and lesbian pride and examine the social and political impact of this movement.

Stonewall Rebellion – The Catalyst for Movement

Part of the reason that LGBTQ Pride Month is celebrated in June is to commemorate an event now known as the Stonewall Rebellion, which is perceived by many to be the start of the gay rights movement.

While the concept of a place where openly LGBTQ individuals are able to congregate is nothing out of the ordinary in many parts of the world today, this was not always the case. In 1969, such places and events were subject to constant police raids and other forms of unwarranted attention from law enforcement. For this reason, there was nothing unusual about the police showing up to the Stonewall Inn on the night of June 27, 1969; at least not initially.

When police arrived on the scene, a gay bar located in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, things seemed to be relatively normal; however, what began as a “routine” breaking-up of gatherers at a gay nightclub ended in a riot. While no one knows what initial event sparked the patrons to action, the customers began resisting arrest and were soon throwing everything from bottles to rocks at the police officers. But the protests did not end there.

In the days after the incident at Stonewall, public displays of impatience, agitation, and outrage marked the beginning of the gay rights movement. (Stonewall Rebellion, 2009)

The Stonewall Rebellion opened the floodgates of equality for the LGBTQ community across the country. Before this event, it was considered wildly deviant behavior to be openly homosexual. And yet, just five short years after that night, the American Psychiatric Association would remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

For a more in-depth look at what attitudes toward LGBTQ men and women were like in the 1960s, watch the following news report that appeared on CBS in 1967:

Harvey Milk – A Brave Leader

It wasn’t until 1978 that the first openly gay individual was elected to office in the United States. His name was Harvey Milk (the subject of the 2008 movie “Milk”). He was elected to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors that year, and his election marked a milestone for LGBTQ men and women everywhere.

Milk moved to San Francisco from New York in 1972, where he opened a small camera store. He soon gained popularity among his peers and was encouraged to run for the Board of Supervisors in 1973. While he did lose that first election, he managed to win 17,000 votes, a number that seemed overwhelmingly large for an openly gay candidate. Milk’s second campaign also resulted in a loss, but there was a silver lining. While he did not win the election to the Board of Supervisors in 1975, he was able to secure a position as San Francisco’s first openly gay commissioner when he was appointed to the Board of Permit Appeals by San Francisco’s mayor at the time, George Moscone.

For Milk, the third time was the charm. When he ran again in 1977, he was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors; a position through which he was able to pass a gay rights ordinance that protected gay individuals from job termination based on sexual orientation.

Sadly, Milk spent only one year in office before he, as well as Mayor Moscone, were assassinated by Supervisor Dan White. (Harvey Milk, n.d.)

To hear one of Milk’s speeches, watch the following video:

Marriage – A Right Some Take for Granted

While significant progress has been made toward the equal treatment of those in the LGBTQ community in this country, many obstacles still remain. One such obstacle, and certainly the most widely publicized one facing us today, is the issue of gay marriage (of which President Obama recently announced his support).

While many people take the right to marry for granted, this right has largely eluded our country’s gay and lesbian community. Aside from the obvious implications of inequality that come from preventing gay marriage, there are a number of benefits to being married that are currently being denied to some members of the LGBTQ community that most people don’t think about when considering this issue. A few of these benefits include:

  • Immigration status
  • Insurance eligibility
  • Medical decisions on behalf of partner
  • Sick leave to care for partner
  • Social security survivor benefits
  • Tax incentives
  • Veteran’s discounts
  • Visitation of partner in hospital or prison (Johnson, n.d.)

Get Involved

Interested in supporting efforts of equality in your community? For information about how you can get involved and to hear from public figures including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, musician Ke$ha, and the staff of Facebook, visit the It Gets Better Project.

Ashford University Faculty Spotlight – John Stender

Associate Professor and Chair of Social and Criminal Justice; Military Studies

John Stender | Ashford University

Doctor of Jurisprudence John Stender, 34, grew up on a farm outside of a little prairie town in western Iowa called Massena – population 400. Before joining Ashford, he ran a program for children of immigrants with Americorps, worked at a Chicago-area law firm, and served as a university Director of Service Learning and Ministry. He started at Ashford teaching classes at the campus in Clinton, IA before transferring to the San Diego, CA offices to teach in the online Social and Criminal Justice program, which he also chairs. He enjoys living in a more urban and diverse area, “but I still miss my little prairie town!”

For John, LGBTQ Pride Month is a time to reflect proudly on the accomplishments of the LGBTQ community while keeping in mind the work that still remains. “I’m proud to be a gay man all year, but having a month set aside to honor that pride means we can highlight the many gifts that LGBTQ people bring to our society.”

As an active member of his church’s LGBTQ outreach group, John participates in events including San Diego’s Pride Parade, fundraisers supporting LGBTQ health and human rights, and an annual AIDS walk. Thankfully, Ashford is just as welcoming of an environment. “I am proud of the commitment that Ashford University has to both tolerance and diversity, which are built into our curriculum. I am able to expand upon these themes while I teach.”

For those wondering how to get involved in advocating LGBTQ equality, John advises to start at the simplest level. “If someone uses the word ‘gay’ to describe something that isn’t appealing, kindly correct them. We will change hearts one friend at a time.” He also recommends looking into organizations that sponsor Pride events, like PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

“My education emphasized the importance of social action and called us, as Ghandi put it, to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world.’ I am a product,” concludes John, “of my education.”


June is gay and lesbian pride month. (n.d.). Retrieved on May 1, 2012 from http://nwhp.org/news/gayandlesbian_month.php

Stonewall Rebellion. (2009) Retrieved on May 1, 2012 from http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/stonewall_rebellion/index.html

Harvey Milk, hero and martyr. (n.d.). Retrieved on May 1, 2012 from http://www.kqed.org/w/hood/castro/resourceguide/harveymilk.html

Johnson, R. (n.d.). Gay marriage benefits. Retrieved on May 1, 2012 from http://gaylife.about.com/od/samesexmarriage/a/benefits.htm

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