Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Dubuque Advances 

Today's Advocate has a news article titled "Iowa city proposes pro-gay antidiscrimination law." The city of Dubuque, Iowa is taking cautious steps toward adding protection of gays and lesbians to their antidiscrimination code. At this point it's being "carefully drafted" by a subcommittee of the human rights committee, and they expect they'll be ready to present it for a vote in a few months.

I attended a Gay Pride parade in Dubuque, IA in the summer of 1988. It was the most frightening Pride Day of my life. I was in grad school at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City. Now, Iowa City is a very liberal place and Gay Pride there was a city-wide event. Okay, it was a campus-wide event. But it's a big campus. During the rally at Iowa City's event, they announced that the Dubuque Pride organizers were hoping folks would come up and show support during their event the following week. Apparently the previous year the turnout was around 20, and the "parade" route was lined with hostile onlookers, whose aggressive threats and actions were not interfered with by the Dubuque police. In the intervening time, they had managed to have some sensitivity training with the police force, etc., and were hoping for something better on the upcoming day. They had even booked Cris Williamson and Tret Fure (upon whom I had a massive crush at the time) for a concert that evening!

So some of us from my department headed on up. There were maybe 100 of us at the event. Most Pride parades I've been to involved lots of people marching, and lots of people on the sides, cheering. Then everyone breaks up to enjoy the entertainment and dancing later on. On this day we all moved together as one. We all marched, we all stayed together during the speeches, we all went to lunch at the same group of restaurants, we all hung out together until they let us into the auditorium for the concert. Safety in numbers. But apparently it was much better than the previous year.

Now, 16 years later, they're working their way up to banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians. That might seem like slow progress, but given the atmosphere I witnessed, this is a victory. Let's hope that many more quiet little cities across Iowa and America will follow suit.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 4:16 PM