West Virginia LGBTQ+ History: Pride comes to Morgantown

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Stonewall Uprising of June 1969, is considered to be one of the most important events in the fight for LGBTQIA+ equal rights in the United States.

The riots started in New York City’s Greenwich Village and lasted for several days.

According to this article, police raided the Stonewall Inn, which was a popular gay club at the time, on June 28, 1969 due to the club serving liquor without a license. In much of a parallel to protests happening across the nation in response to police brutality; the LGBTQIA+ community had grown suspicious that the police departments were targeting gay clubs across the city.

Those who were at the Stonewall Inn, such as drag queens Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, resisted leaving and thus the uprising began. The first anniversary of the protests prompted the first gay pride parade in 1970.

Here in North Central West Virginia, Morgantown Pride was formed nearly a year and a half ago, and has grown rapidly ever since. Morgantown Pride’s President Ash Cutright explained that they started the organization because there wasn’t anything in town for the Queer community.

“I was sitting down in Quantum Bean Coffee Shop having coffee with Emily Womeldorrf from Planned Parenthood and we were discussing how other cities in the state have pride organizations, but Morgantown doesn’t,” Cutright described. “And that just gave me an awesome idea to get a pride organization started.” 

Cutright wanted to make sure the sense of community and family was in Morgantown for LGBTQIA+ individuals. They explained that after the initial conversation in February 2019 Cutright and Lamadore worked to plan the first Pride block party the following April.

“We wanted something that was community based for those that are not associated with WVU,” Cutright detailed. “Everyone knows they have a safe place to go. They have allies here in the community. They have other LGBTQ people here in the community that they can bond with.” 

Morgantown City officials are also supporting the growing community. Last September, a Pride crosswalk was installed on the corner of Green Street and White Avenue in the South Park community. On June 2, Morgantown City Council signed a proclamation to officially pronounce June 2020 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Morgantown. 

We really want to have a place where people can come and be comfortable and feel safe,” said Morgantown City Council member, Bill Kawecki. “And just really participate and they do, and we welcome that.”

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on June 15 that it is illegal to fire anyone on the basis of being gay or transgender. Cutright explained that they are glad to see the ruling, but that doesn’t mean the work is done and there is still a long way to do in terms of LGBTQIA+ rights.

“I urge people to celebrate that progress but also don’t lose track of what we have to keep fighting for. Because the reality of it is there is still a lot of injustices that still happens to the queer community,” said Cutright. “We do not have a law that addresses hate crimes in the state, based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Public accommodations, school anti bullying, education, transgender health care, anti-conversion therapy. This bill would address and protect us from.”

“We struggled, we been hurt, we’ve had members from our community killed that’s what’s also going on in the black community.

Morgantown Pride President Ash Cutright

Pride month is often known as a good opportunity to acknowledge what progress and contributions that the queer community has made throughout the country. Cutright explained that Morgantown Pride gives the community a place to feel safe, while also being a resource for anyone who wants to educate themselves on current issues the community is facing.

“We’re here to offer a safe haven to the queer community,” Cutright explained. “We’re also here to help educate and you know to answer any questions anybody has.”

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