On the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, HRC Celebrates Half a Century of Pride

by Madeleine Roberts

50 years after the Stonewall Riots sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement, HRC celebrates our community’s progress and looks to the fight ahead.

HRC celebrates 50 years of Pride, and two momentous anniversaries in LGBTQ history: the 50th anniversary of the uprising at Stonewall in 1969 and the first Pride parade a year later.

“50 years ago the heroes of Stonewall stood up and fought back against brutality and oppression,” says HRC President Chad Griffin. “Early activists at Stonewall, led by brave transgender women of color such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, boldly kickstarted a modern movement. Now, we must continue to honor them with action. In the scope of history, Stonewall was not that long ago. While our community still faces challenges, these activists taught us resiliency -- a resiliency that helps us fight harder and smarter today to win today’s battles for equality.

“50 years since Stonewall, there is still much work to be done,” Griffin continues. “We must pass the Equality Act, defeat the forces of hate in the White House and around the world, and uplift and protect transgender people, LGBTQ youth, queer communities of color, and our community’s most marginalized. Our community stands on the shoulders of giants, and we must honor them with action by continuing to work towards a world where every person can thrive no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Fifty years ago, in the early morning hours of June 28, the Stonewall Riots began. The riots at Stonewall helped ignite the modern LGBTQ rights movement and harness the political power of LGBTQ people. Harassed by local police simply for congregating, Stonewall’s LGBTQ patrons -- most of whom were trans women of color -- decided to take a stand and fight back against the brutal intimidation they regularly faced at the hands of police. One year later, the first LGBTQ Pride marches were held, establishing June as Pride Month. For the better part of a decade, several other riots took place to demand LGBTQ rights, including at Cooper Do-nuts in 1959, at Compton’s Cafeteria in 1966, and the Black Cat protests in 1967.

In recent years, the LGBTQ community has made great strides toward full equality in the U.S. through legal victories and political change built on decades of grassroots activism. More recently, LGBTQ Americans have proven to be a crucial, powerful voting bloc. In November of 2018, more than 7 million. LGBTQ voters -- 6 percent of total turnout -- cast ballots, making the difference in key races from coast to coast. This unprecedented turnout helped to usher in a pro-equality House of Representatives, and led to the historic passage of the Equality Act through that chamber by a bipartisan vote of 236 to 173. This vote marks the first time in history a chamber of Congress has passed comprehensive LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.

However, even in the last few weeks, the relentless attacks on our community by the Trump-Pence White House have continued, threatening the rights and welfare of millions of LGBTQ Americans. Within the last week, the administration announced its intentions to propose a rule that would allow federally-funded homeless shelters to deny transgender people. And earlier this month, it issued a proposal to drastically roll back health care protections for transgender people under the Affordable Care Act. And breaking with past norms, this White House has never released a Pride Month Proclamation, while its State Department has failed to issue issue cables instructing that Pride to be recognized.

Today, in 30 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are. LGBTQ youth continue to face elevated levels of bullying and rejection, and many associated physical and mental health challenges. According to FBI hate crimes statistics from 2017, the most recently available data, the bureau reported a surge in hate crimes disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people, black people and religious minorities, especially those living at the intersection of multiple identities. And at least 100 transgender people -- most of whom are transgender women of color -- have been murdered in the United States since the beginning of 2015.

HRC is committed to defending our community from attacks on our rights by the Trump-Pence White House and anti-equality forces in the U.S. and around the world, while pushing for the Equality Act and pursuing other legislative and legal avenues that will ensure full lived equality for all LGBTQ people, everywhere.

As the LGBTQ community celebrates the progress we have made in the 50 years since Stonewall, it is more important than ever that we recognize the distance we still have to go to achieve full equality, and the power that this community can harness to achieve that goal, together.