In the early morning hours on Sunday, 28 June 1969, police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a small bar located on Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Although mafia-run, the Stonewall, like other predominantly gay bars in the city, got raided by the police periodically.
But for some reason, the crowd that had gathered outside the Stonewall, a crowd that had become campy and festive and had cheered each time a patron emerged from the bar, soon changed its mood. No one knows for sure who threw the first punch. Some say it was a drag queen, while others claim it was a butch lesbian, who initially defied the police.
The first Stonewall Riot ended the morning of Saturday, June 28. That night the second riot broke out, as thousands of demonstrators — in the name of Gay Pride — flocked to the streets in front of and around the Stonewall Inn. Once again there were confrontations with the police until the early morning hours. Disturbances continued nightly for several days – the last occurred on the evening of Wednesday, July 2.
Gay and lesbian activism certainly existed prior to this time, but the confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City catalyzed the movement and inspired gay men and lesbians to move their cause to entirely new heights utilizing entirely new tactics.
In 1999 the United States government proclaimed the Stonewall Inn as a national historic site. The following year, the status of the Stonewall was improved to “historic landmark,” a designation held by only a small percentage of historical sites.
Forty years after the Stonewall uprising, President Obama became the first president to recognize its significance by declaring June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month:
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.
LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.
Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration — in both the White House and the Federal agencies — openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.
The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.
My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.
These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.
In the forty years since the Stonewall uprising, its anniversary has been celebrated every June, officially or unofficially, in more and more places around the world. This usually involves a parade referred to as a “Gay Pride Parade.” To some non-homosexuals, reserving a day or month to be proud of being gay seems odd – as odd as a “Straight Pride Parade” for heterosexuals would seem.
However, the reason that Gay Pride is necessary today is that for centuries, homosexual men and women have been persecuted, prosecuted, tortured, and killed in many cultures for simply being who they are. Homosexuals were told that they are “worse than” the rest of the population and, conversely, heterosexuals believed that they are “better than” homosexuals. Gay Pride is an effort to tell society that homosexual people are neither worse than nor better than everyone else. In other words, Gay Pride is an effort to normalize the self-esteem of gay people, not to disrespect anyone else. If the tables are turned and straight people ever suffer similar oppression from homosexuals, then perhaps every straight person will understand the need for Pride events.