This month marks 50years since the Stonewall riots in Manhattan. In the course of a routine police raid on a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, tensions erupted. On 28thJune 1969, frustrated by state surveillance and their being targeted for arrest, the patrons of the Stonewall decided to fight back. The two days of uprising that ensued in the district have become synonymous with the kick-off of the gay liberation movement. Each year Pride marches like the one here in Oxford mark the riots of 1969 and the fight for equality, recognition, and freedom.
Times, we may like to think, have changed. But, shamefully, not enough. Last year the UK Government published results of the largest national survey of LGBT people in the world to date. More than two-thirds of LGBT respondents said that they had avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction from others. In one school in Birmingham, there have been protests at the gates for weeks about whether relationships education can talk and teach about anything beyond heterosexuality. I won’t even mention the Church’s own muddles about sexuality.
We might like to assume the world is a kinder, better adjusted place, able to speak the language of difference, but it takes action and risk, care and vision, to make the world so. This Saturday, we begin the day of the Oxford Pride Parade with a short service of Pride Prayers at 10.30am at St Mary’s. With music, reflections, poetry, readings and prayers, this is a chance to pause and give thanks for human life and love in all its diversity and wonder. Afterwards, a large group of ‘Christians at Pride’ gather on Radcliffe Square for the parade at 12.00, to stand and march and pray for a world where all God’s children can be free. If that sounds like something you want to stand for, you would be very welcome indeed to join us.