LGBT Celebrations, Water Cannons

June 28, 2015 - I attended the huge Pride parade here in New York City this afternoon in my neighborhood. Thousands of celebrants pouring down Fifth Avenue. Joyous would be an understatement. The timing of the Supreme Court decision was perfect — a major victory for sanity, dignity, and kindness.

This legal victory is the result of decades of hard work of activists, lawyers, visionaries, elected officials — in the trenches, from the ground up, never giving up, changing hearts and minds… mostly hearts. This was all about love. Love is the force that fueled this transformation over the last decade, converted old thinking and political intransigence. Love makes all things new, as they say. And communications was a very important part of every step in the process of changing the conversation and moving national opinion.

My friend Tom Reilly noted on Friday, “Friends, we have a long way to go, with employment and housing and immigration equality, with transgender rights and violence and bullying towards LGBT teens here, and internationally there are many places you can be jailed or put to death.”

Tom’s point was dramatically underscored from a story from Turkey: “Police attack Muslim world’s largest gay pride parade.” The report went on to say, “Police fired water cannon and rubber pellets at crowds gathering to take part in the pride march near the city's Taksim Square on Sunday.” And being gay is not even officially illegal in Turkey. (See Huffington Post and CNN.)

Many stalwart U.S. right-wing evangelists have taken their bigotry global, especially to Africa, where LGBT citizens live in fear of their lives. And in Russia, Putin in an alliance with the Orthodox Church, has made being gay a sign of western perversion. In nearly 80 nations, being gay is still a serious crime. Changing the narratives and policies in these countries will take many decades.

For the last three years, I have been waging annual quiet efforts to make sure that LGBT leaders and organizations are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Committee has recognized the human rights of women, children, Tibetans, Chinese, and Burmese, but never LGBT citizens. It is time for the Committee to do the right thing and amend this oversight.

For the Committee to make an award, however, there must be nomination letters each year from qualified nominators. In other words, the Nobel Committee cannot, on their own, consider activists or advocacy organizations that aren’t officially nominated. The pool of qualified nominators is actually quite large and includes members of national assemblies and academics — professors of law, religion, and social sciences.

So, for the past few years, I spend some months reaching out to elected officials and academics, urging them to exercise their nominating power and get their letters in by the end of January. Lots of letters is not the goal, just a good range of letters nominating worthy activists and their organizations from countries like Uganda and Russia and other places where lives are on the line.

The Nobel Peace Committee works in private and does not appreciate loud public campaigns or being lobbied, but they are well aware of the yearly efforts to push forward various worthy and sometimes unworthy candidates. So my effort is not secret, per se, but it is low-key. No big social media campaigns or online petitions would be helpful, but a few columns or blogs keeps the issue current (like this one in the Daily Beast: "Could an African LGBT Activist Win the Nobel Peace Prize?").

The winner(s) is announced in October. Will the Committee do the right thing this year? Time will tell.