Stonewall Inn to Become Nation’s First LGBT Monument - A Brief History

Less than a year after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, President Barack Obama plans to sign a proposal that will designate the legendary Stonewall Inn as the first national monument to honor the gay right’s movement, the Associated Press reports.

The Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, is often identified as the birthplace of the LGBT movement; In June 1969 the NYPD conducted a series of raids on the tavern, which was openly frequented by gays and lesbians during a time when homosexuals lived in constant fear of arrest, job loss and physical violence. As the Atlantic wrote, by the summer of 1969, the Stonewall also “operated as a sort of de facto community center for gay youth rendered homeless by familial and institutional rejection, who had taken refuge in New York City in hopes of finding a place where they could be in the world.”

Stonewall had no liquor license and typically functioned by offering kick-backs to police in exchange for a heads up on forthcoming raids. But in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police swarmed the tavern without warning the bar. This atypical police act led to an atypical response from the bar’s patrons — as officers attempted to corral 13 Stonewall patrons into paddy wagons, a crowd of mostly young LGBT people formed on the street outside the bar, erupting in a violent demonstration. During the melee, enraged protestors threw coins, bottles and rocks at officers who responded in kind, savagely beating and arresting LGBT rioters. Spontaneous uprisings continued throughout the following week.

In the years following the Stonewall riots, significant strides were made to advance gay rights — just four years later, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from the list of recognized mental illnesses. But progress for the LGBT community stalled through much of the late 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until Romer v. Evans in 1996  that the Supreme Court granted homosexuals special protections against discrimination, and it took another seven years (Lawrence v. Texas) for the Court to overrule sodomy laws that made private subversive sexual acts illegal in many states.

President Obama, who famously “evolved” on the issue of same-sex marriage, alluded to his appreciation of the Stonewall rioters in his 2013 Inauguration address, telling his supporters: “we, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.”

Now, Obama is taking the opportunity to honor those courageous forebears with a national monument of their own. The proposal being considered would dedicated the area outside of the Stonewall Inn, as well as the adjacent Christopher Park, for the men and women who fought for equal protection under the law. “The president is expected to move quickly to greenlight the monument following a public meeting Monday in Manhattan,” the AP reports, indicating Obama could designate the area as early as next month — just in time for the annual Gay Pride parade in NYC on June 26.

Almost 47 years after the Stonewall riots, this monument -- coupled with last year's Supreme Court decision -- undoubtedly gives us something to celebrate.

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