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The Stonewall Uprising – Origin of Modern LGBTQ+ Rights Movement & Pride Month

Date: June 11, 2021

Pride Month traces its origins to the first anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising began as a series of events between police and LGBTQ+ protesters that stretched over six days and became a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

In 1969, the Stonewall Inn, located on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City.  Throughout New York state, it was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person until 1966 and in 1969 homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense. There were also laws at that time prohibiting wearing “gender inappropriate” clothing.

As part of a pattern of harassment of LGBTQ+ establishments, the New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969.  However, this time the reaction of the bar’s patrons and neighborhood residents that assembled in the street was not typical. Instead of dispersing, the crowd became increasingly angry and began chanting and throwing objects as the police arrested the bar’s employees and patrons.  Reinforcements were called in by the police, and for several hours they tried to clear the streets while the crowd fought back.

The initial raid and the riot that ensued led to six days of demonstrations and conflicts with law enforcement outside the bar, in nearby Christopher Park, and along neighboring streets.  At its peak, the crowds included several thousand people.

The events of the Stonewall Uprising marked a major change in the struggle for gay rights in the U.S. with lesbian women, gay men, bisexual and transgender people beginning to vocally and assertively demand their civil rights.  Stonewall is regarded by many as the single most important catalyst for the dramatic expansion of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.  The Stonewall Uprising inspired the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters throughout the country to organize, and within two years of the riots, LGBTQ+ rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the U.S.

A Pride March was held on June 28, 1970 on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.  The March intended to give the community a chance to gather together to “commemorate the Christopher Street Uprisings of last summer in which thousands of homosexuals went to the streets to demonstrate against centuries of abuse...from government hostility to employment to housing discrimination…and anti-homosexual laws.”  Since that first Stonewall anniversary march, LGBTQ+ people have continued to gather together in June to march with Pride.  Those marches and new vigor in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights culminated in an official declaration of Pride Month in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. Since that declaration, Pride Month continues to be recognized every year in June.  Today, the site of the Stonewall Uprising is recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.

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