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Only Steps Forward Auburn must embrace equality and show public support for it

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As we wrap up our Fourth of July week, a little reflection on how we are doing at living up to the high bar set in this opening line of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is in order.

While the phrase is often referenced as part of the Constitution, it only appeared in the Declaration of Independence. Of course, the Declaration is seen as the foundation of the government that would be established some 13 years later.

Over our history, we have seen the struggles of men and women as they seek to secure access to those unalienable rights. Fortunately for Americans, our rule of law has provided a pathway, albeit long and at times painful, to achieve that in many instances to date.

We don’t need to look much further back in history than the month of June to many Americans being awakened to the harsh reality of discrimination and targeting of one segment of our population: the nightclub shooting in Orlando.

This shooting occurred during a month of the year that has come to be called Pride Month, a month where members of the LGBTQ community have chosen to celebrate publicly and invited others to join them.

Throughout the country, those of all faiths and political persuasions decried the violence and attack on these citizens and said that they stood by them as Americans. For this community of citizens, often faced with verbal and physical assaults because of who they are and how they live, this had to have been an unexpected turn from the tragic events in Orlando.

In some countries in this world, being openly gay can lead to persecution and even execution based on religious objections alone. In America, where our founding principles were based on certain unalienable rights, it seemed as though the country may be willing to turn a tragedy into a moment of recognizing equality.

Cities across the country, in addition to their Pride Month events and parades, added somber vigils for the victims and their families and as a show up support for members of the LGBTQ community in their cities.

Here in Auburn, I was proud to see the quick response by members of the Unitarian Universalist Church and their pastor Jodi Hayashida. A beautiful candle light tribute was held at their church on Spring Street, turning out well over a hundred citizens from this community in a show of solidarity and prayer.

But for this one night, however, Auburn would have been quiet during Pride Month. For residents who still regularly face discrimination and ridicule, for young people that still are known to face bullying in our local schools, we found only one night to come together, sparked by a major tragedy some 1,400 miles away.

For the City of Portland and the City of Bangor, a continuation of years of events to break down cultural barriers that have marginalized these citizens continued.

Seeing this, I have reached out to the Unitarian Universalist parish, members of local LGBTQ organizations and several City Councilors to ask if there would be support to begin organizing now for Pride events for next June. It was reassuring to hear that many had begun thinking that same thing, that this community should embrace equality and show its public support.

For any of you reading this that may be interested in playing an active volunteer role, or wish to show support in other ways, please consider emailing me at jlabonte@auburnmaine.gov. While I will not be the coordinator of any events, I have offered my support as activities come together and will happily connect you to those leaders.

As Americans, our obligation to each other to sustain this country is to also hold these truths to be self-evident, that certain rights are unalienable, and among them must be life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that remains worth fighting for.

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