Following the June 28, 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn–a gay night club located on New York City’s Christopher Street–and the ensuing violence as club attendees and local sympathizers began rioting against the police, many members and supporters of the LGBT community were inspired to actively advocate for their rights. Hence, the gay rights movement was born.
Now, decades after the Stonewall riots, headlines worldwide laud the progression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. Activists have taken their protests from the streets and into the virtual forum, sending messages further and wider; laws have been enacted to ensure equal protections for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In fact, just one year ago the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.
Nationwide, the month of June has been designated as LGBT Pride Month—a time to celebrate love and reject hate. From Los Angeles to Chicago to New York City, pride parades, festivals, and nightlife celebrations have swept the U.S.
Just as the movement for equality has evolved over the years, so too has the Pride March. What began as a violent protest amidst social turmoil in the late sixties has now blossomed into a celebration of love and togetherness in the continued quest for equality.
Last Sunday, New York City hosted the 46th annual NYC Pride March, which included over 32,000 marchers, 400 groups, and 1.8 million spectators. This year’s NYC Pride March also had a distinct focus in light of the recent tragedies at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The owner of Pulse in Orlando, Barbara Poma, and manager, Neema Bahrami, rode on the lead float as honored guests of NYC Pride.
With lively music, an animated procession of floats displaying various artistic performances, electrified crowds, and many star-studded appearances, pride parades are known for fostering a unique state of euphoria for all in attendance. However, this year’s parades were tinged with heartache following the horrific mass shooting in Orlando. At NYC’s Pride parade, a group of 49 individuals dressed in all white, veiled in fabric and wearing placards with names and faces, paid tribute to the lives lost on June 12th. Despite the air of sorrow, the parade continued on as vibrant as ever.
While the tragedy in Orlando brought an essence of remembrance and sorrow to the various pride parades nationwide, President Obama’s recent declaration that Stonewall Inn would be recognized as a national monument to gay rights added a certain victory for all members of the LGBT community and its supporters.
President Obama not only declared Stonewall Inn and its surrounding area the Stonewall National Monument, he also created the first National Park Service unit dedicated to the gay rights movement. According to the White House, the monument designation will consist of 7.7 acres, protecting the Inn itself, Christopher Park across the street, and several other streets and sidewalks where spontaneous protests were held for equal rights in 1969.
In a time of social and political change, LGBT Pride Month has sought to re-ignite and invigorate passion for social equality and peace across the nation. Despite myriad obstacles and terrible tragedy, the LGBT community has risen above adversity by advocating for love and its irrefutable ability to transcend all else.