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Have you noticed that the Christopher Street West Pride celebration, the 25th anniversary of AIDS, and the June 6 primary election all fall within the same week? It’s almost as if fate is trying to tell us something — us gay people — the ones with the most to lose since this is also the week the Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate intends to introduce a bill that would write discrimination against gay relationships into the United States Constitution. Oh, and for backup, religious and political right-wing operatives are diligently trying to whip up anti-gay sentiment in several states for the November elections.

As Thomas Paine said, freedom comes with a price. Read the pages of our special AIDS at 25 project (pages 57-73) and scroll through the names, more remembrances, the photos on our Web site, and you will see how dear a price we have already paid for government indifference and hostility. Some of us survived that lost generation. Our hearts break remembering how we waited for government, doctors, and churches to rescue our dying loved ones — much as Sept. 11 and hurricane Katrina victims waved at circling helicopters: help us!

But no one came and out of desperation and love, we learned how to help ourselves. We got angry, we got indignant, we acted up, we cajoled, and in the end, we shared what we learned so others would not have to endure the same neglect and abandonment we suffered. Of this we must be extremely proud. We are the armies of compassion.

As you stroll through the Christopher Street West festival and check out the booths (see our guide on pages 86-89), or as you watch the Pride parade on June 11, think for a moment about the drag queens of color three decades ago who resisted yet another police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a riot that resulted in some of the openness and freedom you enjoy today. Think of how that resistance was parlayed into political clout through organized fund raising, volunteering, and LGBT endorsements of gay or gay-friendly candidates. It’s imperative that we do that work again this June and November. We may be second-class citizens in the eyes of the government, but we can contribute time and money and no one can take away our right to vote. Let’s resist complacency and elect a government that upholds our equality.

How important is your vote? During the 1992 election, the LGBT community galvanized nationwide to evict the Reagan/Bush right wingers from the White House and elect Bill Clinton, who promised to “do something” for gays and about AIDS. Everyone got involved. Norton Simon Museum’s Philip Juwig (pictured), for instance, was about two-months away from death but held a Clinton/Gore fund-raiser anyway as his contribution. From checkbook activists to ordinary gays shucking their old shame in exchange for LGBT pride, taking action became a calling. It is time to heed that call again.

Please do your part and vote as if your pride depended on it.