Fifty years ago this weekend, the NYPD raided a small, seedy club on Christopher Street — and a movement gained its voice.
In the early hours of June 28, police looking to crack down on gay bars barged into the Stonewall Inn, a place that had been a refuge for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals. Police battered customers and made more than a dozen arrests — some because people were dressed in drag, which was a crime then. But patrons mobilized and a riot broke out. Protests continued for days.
While gay activists had demanded equal rights in the years before, reaction to this raid rapidly coalesced into an organized and determined fight for recognition and equality.
Fifty years later, Stonewall remains a marker.
A year after that hot June day in 1969, thousands marched through Manhattan in what is now considered the first gay pride parade.
And in the decades since, there has been tremendous progress, from the legalization of same-sex marriage to equal rights in employment. New York, in particular, has been among the states out in front.
But there also have been many setbacks. There are ample reasons for concern, as LGBTQ rights have come under fire in the last two years. Despite vague words of support from President Donald Trump as recently as this month, his administration has shown a blatant and ugly disregard for LGBTQ individuals, rolling back gains. Transgender individuals are now banned from serving in the U.S. military. HIV and AIDS research funding has been slashed. Under the guise of religious freedom, adoption agencies and health care providers can deny services and care to LGBTQ individuals. And the Department of Health and Human Services has taken steps to narrow the definition of gender to the point at which the government’s recognition of those who are transgender would be all but eliminated.
What’s more, 30 states still lack basic anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ people in employment, housing and more, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
So, even as there’s much to celebrate during WorldPride events in NYC this weekend, there’s also work to be done. But unlike on that late June night five decades ago, the LGBTQ community no longer has to go at this alone. Millions of allies here and across the country and the globe are ready to join them in the cause.
The fight is far from over.