This month, pride parades are occurring throughout the United States in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. On June 13th in Philadelphia, floats made their way to Penn’s Landing where retailers, community groups, and entertainers awaited them. On the same day, Pittsburgh had their annual Pride Awareness March. Over one hundred organizations and groups participated.
Pride marches occur in June in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. In 1969, New York City allowed bars to refuse service to LGBT customers. In establishments where members of the LGBT community were served, they were not allowed to touch members of the same sex when they danced. Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street offered a reprieve from discrimination for a three dollar cover charge.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the NYPD First District raided the bar. Those inside fought back. The rebellion lasted for six days as more LGBT youth joined the fight.
Gay rights groups such as the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis had been active before the riots. But June 1969 marked a turning point when the gay liberation movement became more modern and aggressive.
On July 4, 1969, the Mattachine Society, Frank Kameny, Craig Rodwell and others protested in Philadelphia in what they called the “Annual Reminder.” The protest was calm and peaceful, but Rodwell thought the placid “Annual Reminder” was not enough. He organized the first U.S. gay pride parade called “Christopher Street Liberation Day” that took place on June 28, 1970. The parade covered fifty-one blocks.
Since then, June has been considered Gay Pride Month. And in 2000, it was officially recognized by President Clinton, who named it “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” President Obama made the month’s name more inclusive on May 28th of this year, naming June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.
In June, it is important not only to celebrate pride with large-scale parades but also to reflect on how far the LGBT rights movement has come since 1969 and how far it still has to go. Refusing to serve a gay person is now considered discrimination in many places and same-sex couples may touch each other as they dance. However, legal marriage is still impossible for gay couples in most states, including Pennsylvania. This results not only in excluding gay couples from one of society’s major cultural institutions, but also an increased financial burden on the couple, and depending on the state laws, increased difficulty with adoption and the legal fees associated with custody. Further, access to health care coverage can be impeded for domestic partners, while married couples easily share insurance policies. There are numerous ways in which the gay community is still disadvantaged (including legally, socially, and financially) and there is a lot of work to be done, though it is certainly inspiring to be reminded of how much work has been accomplished by the early activists.