HRC Blog

HRC Marks the 44th Anniversary of Stonewall

Despite the monumental nature of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and return marriage to California, it is just another waypoint on the fight for full equality for LGBT Americans. As it happens, that journey started 44 years ago today, at the Stonewall Inn in New York.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the police came to raid the Stonewall, a popular gay bar, as raids on gay establishments were not uncommon at the time and usually progressed without meeting any sort of resistance. Amidst a crackdown of other gay bars it appeared as if the raid on the Stonewall might be an attempt to shut down the city’s gay bar scene for good. So the customers fought back.

A crowd gathered as police arrested thirteen individuals, and while that group dissipated, a much larger crowd returned that night. Over a total of six days, the LGBT community in New York pushed back against police, demanding that they be treated with respect and dignity.

There was violence, but there was also an assertion of the community’s collective identity through both more peaceful means and some that were less conventional. At one point, protestors formed a line and high kicked in the faces of police officers.

While the riots eventually quieted down, the calls for LGBT rights did not. A year later, the first pride parades were held on the anniversary of the events at Stonewall in cities around the country. To this day, New York’s pride weekend is held to coincide with the memory of Stonewall.

The bar – which is still operational – has also served as a gathering place when exciting victories occur for the LGBT community. When the New York State Legislature passed same-sex marriage in 2011, crowds descended on Sheridan Square to celebrate where the battle for full equality began.

And on Wednesday, when Edie Windsor learned that she had successfully won her case and, as a result, the DOMA had been ruled unconstitutional, she had a demand.

“I wanna go to Stonewall right now!”

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