American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Remembering Stonewall: How Far We’ve Come, How Far We Have to Go

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, police invaded the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City to arrest its gay and lesbian patrons, simply for being gay. The raid sparked violent riots and protests in the days following and is now regarded as the beginning of the LGBT equal rights movement.

Now, at the end of LGBT Pride month, which celebrates all Americans for being who they are, we honor the change that Stonewall set in motion, and look back at all that we have achieved.

The bold actions by the patrons of the Stonewall Inn have inspired generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. At the time, being gay was stigmatized and regarded as something to hide. There was little to be proud of: We had no openly gay elected officials and no openly gay characters on film or television to serve as role-models. No protections in adoption, hate crimes, employment, housing and accommodations, health insurance or relationship recognition existed. People were afraid to come out or do something as innocent as hold hands in public for fear of being beaten to death or arrested.

So much has changed in the 43 years since Stonewall.

One year ago, a bi-partisan group of New York State legislators passed a bill, which was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, granting all New Yorkers the right to marry the person they love.

And this victory for equality is only the latest in a string of significant historical triumphs we have witnessed.  Couples can now get married in a total of six states and our nation’s capital. Our heroes in the military can serve openly, with honor and dignity. There are elected officials like Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank, and other allies, to make sure our voices are heard in Congress. There are gay characters on the big screen and the silver screen that make us laugh and cry.

And yet, we have so much more work to do. We have not yet achieved full federal marriage equality. People can still be fired from their job in 34 states when they come out as gay, bi or trans. And we are still struggling with an ever-expanding HIV and AIDS epidemic.

But because of people like the patrons of the Stonewall Inn and the work of groups like AFER, we have hope that someday soon we will achieve everything we have been fighting for.

Topics: Blog, On This Day