Since the election, many of us have navigated each day with a deeply unsettling feeling of uncertainty. Now, as the inauguration looms, we are getting a clear sense of what this new administration, along with an emboldened Congress, state legislatures, and city councils hope to achieve in this shifting climate.
To be clear, across our country we are witnessing an unprecedented push to erode the progress our community has made through decades of hard work.
In Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, and right here in Washington, new bills have been filed that rollback protections and undermine the basic human rights that our community has fought so long to gain. As I write this, opponents of equality in Anchorage are working to carve out religious exemptions to the non-discrimination ordinance we just won in 2015. Last week, a Texas judge struck down a regulation in the Affordable Care Act that would prohibit discrimination in healthcare on the basis of gender.
From these legislative efforts, to the significant increase in hate crimes we have witnessed, those feelings of uncertainty we have been grappling with are starting to take shape into our new reality. Through all of this, I remain hopeful by focusing on another upcoming day—one that celebrates the life and legacy of one of the most prominent advocates for justice, change, service, and resilience.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy reminds us that our story of struggle and perseverance is a quintessential American story. As we approach MLK Day, I find myself reflecting on his poignant words: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
America’s story is the story of group after group—from Selma to Seneca Falls to Stonewall—standing up and demanding that this promise of our country live up to its revolutionary potential.
We do this work and continue to stand with one another because we too know that the promise of America is not an exclusionary one. It is a promise that has been made to every single one of us, and it is precisely this that makes our country great.
This time may feel daunting and discouraging, but our history shows that we have withstood great challenges before. Our community’s foundation has always been rooted in our courage, hope, and perseverance, and we must continue to draw on this legacy. The importance of strengthening our commitment to one other has never been more critical. Indeed, Dr. King’s words remind us of this very fact, “The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
In this moment, we must not only fight to protect our community’s hard-won progress, but also find places to make advances—ensuring that revolutionary promise Dr. King referenced is afforded to everyone.
We will persevere through this, and continue to seek out glimpses of light even in incredibly difficult times. Just this week, Helena City Commissioners voted to expand nondiscrimination protections to transgender and gender diverse people. Advances like this one will keep us on our path toward full lived and legal equality.
And, together, we will continue to fight for our place in the American story.
Thank you for your commitment and support in writing this next chapter.
Kris Hermanns is Chief Executive Officer of Pride Foundation. Email Kris.