Today, June 24, marks the 49th NYC Pride March, that annual event—replete with rainbow colors and flags blanketing Fifth Ave— that not only celebrates LGBTQ heritage but also commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the beginning of the modern Gay Rights movement.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, police conducted their usual raids at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, which had become a staple for New York City’s underground gay community. Only that day, the community members fought back. This act of rebellion became a catalyst for the gay rights cause, emboldening LGBTQ members to stand up to the anti-gay legal system and sociopolitical climate at the time.
Prior to the movement, LGBTQ persons suffered widespread discrimination for their sexual orientation. Suspected homosexuals were often denied federal jobs, discharged from the military or fired from government positions. The FBI and police departments maintained lists of gay people. And the American Psychiatric Society tagged homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1952.
But the Stonewall uprising galvanized America’s LGBTQ community. United under a goal to “smash gay oppression,” members have since continued to fight for their rights and freedom to love. Since the 60s, significant progress has been. In June 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Six years later, thousands of LGBTQ people occupied the streets of Washington for their first-ever National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights. New laws protect LGBTQ people from losing jobs or housing because of their sexual orientation. And the biggest win of all came in June 2015 when the Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to marry on the same terms and conditions as heterosexual couples.
However, even with all the historic gains, there is still more work to be done. A 2018 Accelerating Acceptance study The Harris Poll conducted for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation showed a notable decline in people’s comfort with LGBTQ people. For the past four years, GLAAD has commissioned The Harris Poll to to measure American attitudes toward LGBTQ people and issues and this year’s study found that 36% of non-LGBTQ Americans said they would feel very or somewhat uncomfortable if they saw a same sex couple holding hands (versus 29% in 2015 and 2016, and 31% in 2014). LGBTQ allies are gradually becoming detached supporters. Furthermore, the number of LGBTQ people reporting discrimination based on their gender identity also jumped from 44% in 2017 to 55% in 2018. Some see the development as a reflection of the times we’re in and America’s current leadership.
These findings show that today, as LGBTQ people and their allies take to the streets of New York City to celebrate their progress and heritage in these tumultuous times, there is still a lot to fight for. The battle for LGBTQ rights is far from over.