Orlando follow-up: Berkshire Stonewall community meeting Friday, July 1

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Responding to the Orlando tragedy, the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition will hold a LGBTQ Community Meeting on Friday, July 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum on South Street in Pittsfield. The event is free and open to the public.

The meeting will feature a panel discussion with representatives of local LGBTQ community organizations and initiatives to discuss the effects of the events of the Orlando shooting on the LGBTQ community. Representatives from each of these organizations will speak about their organizations, and the impact they have on the community.

Following the panel portion of the meeting, community members will be encouraged to participate in an open conversation to discuss their feelings regarding recent events, as well as the direction of the LGBTQ community, and will be invited to participate in developing and enacting a plan of action for the LGBTQ community of Berkshire County. Light refreshments will be provided.

Berkshire Stonewall’s Jason Verchot on the outlook for LGBTQ issues

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LGBT organizations more important than ever
Opinion by Jason Verchot, President, Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition

In light of the recent tragedy I feel that I should say something, but I just don’t know what to say. As many of you know, there have been ongoing conversations about the future of this organization for some time. One of the questions asked is “Do organizations like this really need to exist anymore?” And in truth, it’s a difficult question to answer.

For those of us living in Massachusetts, we’ve enjoyed protections under the law for a number of years, from anti-discrimination laws to gay marriage. On a federal level, we’ve seen the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and a landmark supreme court decision that ruled any ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.

But that doesn’t stop bigotry, fear, and hatred from rising to the surface. How many anti-LGBT laws are being proposed in bills across this country at this very moment?

And then there is the simple truth that there are other minorities that have had protections/equal rights under the law for far longer than the LGBT community, yet still must deal with the fact that just because you have equality under the law doesn’t mean that you are treated equally.

And as I read various responses/reactions from politicians and the media, it seems to me that there is a desire to rationalize all of this away by saying “this a gun issue”, or “this is an terrorist/Islamic extremist issue”. And while I agree that the ease with which guns can be acquired, and the fact that religion is too often used as a justification for infringing on the freedoms and safety of others, at the end of the day these aspects point to a bigger issue: We live in a culture where fear has been cultivated and permeates everything we do, and every decision we make.

I’m not sure what else to say. I hope to see as many of you at the vigil on Tuesday as possible, and I wish you all the best. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize my thoughts may not be cohesive, and I thank you for your patience.