July 3, 2019 at 9:48 am PST | by Karen Ocamb
‘We, too, are Americans’

If there was a singular moment in global collective history when the world really did come together as one, it was on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong jumped onto the surface of the moon: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” In a time fraught with political assassinations and a country torn asunder by the war in Vietnam, the lunar landing was the ultimate symbol of hope and the fortitude of the American spirit. It was a symbol for LGBT people, too, as the Stonewall Rebellion three weeks earlier was beginning to transform into the movement for gay liberation.

But 50 years later, the moonshot-inspired belief that anything is possible has been frayed by what former President Jimmy Carter calls the “illegitimate” presidency of Donald Trump, who hijacked and militarized the once sacred, non-partisan Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall. LGBT Americans are still officially second-class citizens whose existing civil rights face rollbacks everyday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stonewalls bringing the House-passed Equality Act to the US Senate.

Nonetheless, the patriotic promise of the Declaration of Independence still courses through LGBT blood. Here is how some LGBT and ally Angelenos feel about Independence Day, 2019. – Karen Ocamb

Ari Gutierrez Arambula

“Since we became parents, my wife and I dress ourselves and our daughter in the red, white and blue regalia, decorate our ‘float’ with patriotic symbolism and take our rightful place in the small town 4th of July parade near our home.  For us, this is a deep-seeded statement of courage and belonging that we make in this patriotic parade equal to the statement our community makes by marching in an LGBTQ pride parade. We declare, through our participation and visibility, that we, too, are proud Americans and we, as LGBTQ individuals and families, are an integral part of America and the American Dream for which we battle shoulder-to-shoulder daily in the pursuit of happiness, justice and equality for all.  #equality4all #firstgeneration #immigrant #lgbtq #lafamiliaisout” – Ari Gutierrez Arambula, Co-Founder, HONOR PAC, Advisory Board President of the Latino Equality Alliance and Programming Chair for the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Karina Samala (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“’Independence Day’ signifies our country declaring independence from tyranny but on a more personal level, to me, ‘Independence Day’ is something all of us in the LGBTQ community aspire to—to be free from hatred and unequal treatment. ‘Independence Day’ has not occurred yet for us but I believe it will! – Karina Samala, West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board.

Jeffrey King (Photo courtesy King)

“Independence is the gift of being free to celebrate all of who I am while helping others along the way.” – Jeffrey King, Executive Director of In The Meantime Men’s Group, Inc.

Eric Garcetti (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“On Independence Day, we celebrate the principle that has defined this
nation for more than 200 years: that we are all created equal, and
that our work to secure a more perfect union is never truly done. I
use the 4th to reflect on the civil rights, worker rights, women’s
rights, and LGBTQ rights that have yet to be achieved for our brothers
and sisters, and re-commit myself to that fight for equality and
justice for which our country was founded.” – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Sheila Kuehl (Photo courtesy LA County)

“For me, every year, Independence Day marks a profound act of imagination; a group of colonists who dared to imagine that they could free themselves from a powerful British ruler. So many social movements since then have been born from a similar courageous refusal to be limited by what exists: the civil rights movement, the movement to end domestic violence and intimate partner violence, and of course, the amazing history of LGBTQ activism. This year, I deeply hope that queer communities everywhere can draw strength from our steadfast and historical resolve and all our successes and know that we can and must continue to prepare ourselves for the many struggles still remaining.” – Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, first LGBT person elected to the California Assembly.

Bamby Salcedo (Photo courtesy Salcedo)

“For me and many of my Trans siblings, independence means a dream that has become a nightmare. Independence means that I have the ability to walk out of my home without being afraid that I can be murdered simply because of who I am. Independence means living free without oppression and today, I am an oppressed person.” – Bamby Salcedo, Founder & CEO, TransLatin@ Coalition 

Adam Schiff (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“On Independence Day, I think of the courage of those revolutionaries, who risked their lives to secure the rights they knew to be inalienable — of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How can any of those rights be secured when the state places any impediment on the freedom to work, practice one’s faith, or love the person they love? And I think of the work yet to be done in a country now so deeply divided, to make us a more perfect union. – Rep. Adam Schiff

Karen Bass (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“Independence day is a reminder to continue to strive for a country in which everyone is free and everyone is equal. Happy July 4th!” – Rep. Karen Bass

Ron Galprin (Courtesy Galprin’s office)

“The Fourth is a day on which I hope everyone not only celebrates our nation’s independence, but also contemplates our interdependence as a society because we all depend on each other to live and thrive. Our reliance on friends, families and neighbors for support and social connection underscores why it is so important to stand together for what is right, to speak out for those in need and to push for full equality for everyone in the United States.” L.A. Controller Ron Galperin, first openly LGBTQ citywide elected official in Los Angeles

Jon Davidson (photo courtesy Davidson)

“Independence Day for me is a day to celebrate the nation’s progress (partial, as it is) toward living up to its highest ideals of liberty and justice for all, with the hope that our country soon will provide express and enduring protections against discrimination suffered by LGBTQ people.” – Jon W. Davidson, Chief Counsel, Freedom For All Americans

John Heilman (Photo courtesy City of West Hollywood)

“The 4th of July is a celebration of the founding of our country. We still have a long way to go to live up to our founding principles and ideals, but I’m hopeful we will get to a point where we have full equality for all. And we need to continue to fight not just for members of the LGBTQI community, but for women and girls, immigrants and people of color and all other people who have been marginalized. Despite the problems we still face I’m still proud of the ideals that we strive to achieve.” – John Heilman, West Hollywood City Councilmember and WeHo Founding Father

Richard Zaldivar (Photo courtesy Zaldivar)

“As an openly proud gay Latino Catholic man, I am grateful to be living in a country that provides a safe process for freedom. I celebrate our constitution and our Declaration of Independence. Our system of government is the greatest in the world. It is sometimes the people that occupy our government who are bad and abuse our system. Let us celebrate this Independence Day by reclaiming our freedom, rights, respect and preserving our democracy.” – Richard Zaldivar, Executive Director/Founder, The Wall Las Memorias Project  

Lorri L. Jean (Photo courtesy Jean)

“As a kid, Independence Day always meant delicious homemade strawberry ice cream, with me and my little brother cranking the handle of the old ice cream maker (and, if we were lucky, fireworks at night).  Today, I think about the holiday as an aspirational metaphor for our society.  Just as our nation was founded by casting off the yoke of British oppression, today it’s important to continue the struggle to end all other oppression within our country.  It’s a tall order, but it remains, for me, one of the most inspirational tenets of our democracy:  liberty and justice for all.” – Lorri L. Jean, CEO, Los Angeles LGBT Center  

Jewel Thais-Williams (Photo by Dusti Cunningham)

“This Independence Day falls around the 50th year of Stonewall and despite what’s happening with Congress and this president, I think people are beginning to rise up. We have some people calling for reparations! So even with the new Neo-Nazis and the old KKK, the majority of people still believe in the rights of others and the Declaration of Independence.” – Jewel Thais-Williams, founder of Catch One Disco and The Village Health Foundation

Denise L. Eger (Photo courtesy Eger)

“American Independence Day, July 4, reminds me of the liberty granted by our Constitution.  It is a reminder that these freedoms to live and love and pursue happiness can never be taken for granted but must be cherished, honored and defended. I give thanks to those who came before me, who did so in this time when there are assaults on our liberty daily, when the free press is under attack, and our own President tramples upon American values of welcoming the immigrant, defending justice, and making a place for all at the American table, I hope the 4th of July inspires us to take back our country from the corporate forces of greed and the white nationalism that is eating at our American soul.  Time to celebrate and time to work for a better America, and time to register to vote!” – Rabbi Denise L. Eger, founding rabbi Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood

Jeffrey Prang (Photo courtesy Prang)

Our nation’s birthday is a celebration of our freedom from tyranny and yet we all know that tyranny is still trying to hang on in many areas of our Great Society. As a gay elected official, this year’s Independence Day is especially memorable because of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.  So many have sacrificed so very much for the rest of us. We’ve come a long way but still have a long way to go. I am reminded of what our last legitimate president said about freedom. President Barack Obama explained it this way: ‘When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.’ So simple. So true. Happy Fourth of July.” – Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang.

Ari Ruiz with Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom (Photo courtesy Ruiz)

“Last month, I had the honor to attend Gov. Newsom’s LGBT Pride Month Celebration at the people’s house, the Governor’s Mansion. It was a privilege to attend an official Gubernatorial event that celebrates who I am, because historically that hasn’t always been the case for people who came before me. I am grateful to live in a state that allows me to be who I am without fear of persecution. I am grateful to work for an incredible LGBT ally, Asm. Burke, who allows me to be my authentic self. But our state government wasn’t always friendly towards the LGBT community. Now it is— but we must remain vigilant to keep it that way.”Ari Ruiz, Commissioner, LA County Commission on Insurance 

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