Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated annually in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan and LGBTQ Americans’ work for equal justice and equal opportunity.
The Stonewall Uprising of 1969
In the early 1960s, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) considered establishments to be “disorderly houses,” or places where “unlawful practices are habitually carried on by the public” if alcohol was openly served to gay customers, so many gay bars were refused liquor licenses. Because of this, the Stonewall Inn operated as a private “bottle club,” as many other gay bars in New York did at the time because private clubs were not required to have a liquor license.
Police raids on gay bars were frequent events at this time – reportedly happening on average of once a month for each bar. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police, armed with a search warrant, raided the Stonewall Inn to investigate the illegal sale of alcohol. Patrons of the Stonewall Inn and employees were interrogated for hours, some being allowed to leave, some being arrested. This time, however, things didn’t quite go the same way that previous raids had gone.
As word got out around the city, thousands of protesters gathered at the Stonewall Inn, beginning a six-day clash with police.
“Many new activists consider the Stonewall Uprising the birth of the gay liberation movement. Certainly it was the birth of gay pride of a massive scale.” – The Gay Crusaders, by Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker, New York: Paperback Library, 1972.
After the riots
This experience brought the LGBTQ community in New York City together in a more cohesive way. Within six months of the riots, two activist organizations and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gay men and lesbians. One of those organizations was the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, which planned the first gay pride parade.
On June 28, 1970, one year after the riots, the first gay pride marches took place in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Chicago and other cities around the country also commemorated the anniversary with marches and other events. Soon, gay rights organizations would be found across the United States and around the world.
Did you know…
- In the state of New York, it was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person until 1966.
- Women would be arrested for not wearing a minimum of three pieces of feminine clothing.
- Within a couple of years after the Stonewall riots, gay rights groups were active in every major U.S. city, as well as Canada, Australia and Western Europe.
- The Stonewall Inn was designated as a National Monument in 2016.
- The inaugural pride march in 1970 saw between 3,000 and 5,000 in attendance. Today, attendance is in the millions at the annual New York City march.
The Stonewall Uprising of 1969, Library of Congress
Why Did the Mafia Own the Bar?, American Experience, PBS.org
Stonewall Riots, Wikipedia.org