On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred and gave birth to the gay rights movement.
Frank Rich in the NYT:
LIKE all students caught up in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, I was riveted by the violent confrontations between the police and protestors in Selma, 1965, and Chicago, 1968. But I never heard about the several days of riots that rocked Greenwich Village after the police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in the wee hours of June 28, 1969 — 40 years ago today.
Then again, I didn’t know a single person, student or teacher, male or female, in my entire Ivy League university who was openly identified as gay. And though my friends and I were obsessed with every iteration of the era’s political tumult, we somehow missed the Stonewall story. Not hard to do, really. The Times — which would not even permit the use of the word gay until 1987 — covered the riots in tiny, bowdlerized articles, one of them but three paragraphs long, buried successively on pages 33, 22 and 19.
But if we had read them, would we have cared? It was typical of my generation, like others before and after, that the issue of gay civil rights wasn’t on our radar screen. Not least because gay people, fearful of harassment, violence and arrest, were often forced into the shadows. As David Carter writes in his book “Stonewall,” at the end of the 1960s homosexual sex was still illegal in every state but Illinois. It was a crime punishable by castration in seven states. No laws — federal, state or local — protected gay people from being denied jobs or housing. If a homosexual character appeared in a movie, his life ended with either murder or suicide.
The younger gay men — and scattered women — who acted up at the Stonewall on those early summer nights in 1969 had little in common with their contemporaries in the front-page political movements of the time. They often lived on the streets, having been thrown out of their blue-collar homes by their families before they finished high school. They migrated to the Village because they’d heard it was one American neighborhood where it was safe to be who they were.
Stonewall “wasn’t a 1960s student riot,” wrote one of them, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, in a poignant handwritten flier on display at the New York Public Library in the exhibition “1969: The Year of Gay Liberation.” They had “no nice dorms for sleeping,” “no school cafeteria for certain food” and “no affluent parents” to send checks. They had no powerful allies of any kind, no rights, no future. But they were brave. They risked their necks to prove, as Lanigan-Schmidt put it, that “the mystery of history” could happen “in the least likely of places.”
Video from Salon
Round-up of posts and articles Towleroad
Tjlabs at Daily Kos:
I was ordained a deacon in 1972 and served in two different parishes until the Church and I came to a mutual parting of the ways. During that time, I baptized dozens of babies, preached dozens of homilies and distributed hundreds of communions. But deep down I knew the real reason for becoming a priest. The Church was the safest place for a gay man to hide undetected by cloaking himself in the mantle of holiness and celibacy. I had gay classmates and knew gay priests but the straight clergy vastly outnumbered the gay clergy contrary to recent events and scandals within the Church. And the gay clergy were gay, not pedophiles. That was a whole other issue. And those we knew about were widely shunned by the rest of us.
It wasn’t until some years later after I had left the Church that I realized that the gay revolution which began 40 years ago tonight in a Mafia-run bar for gays and transvestites was also the catalyst for my personal revolution. I knew that I didn’t want to live a lie and that I didn’t want to live alone, surviving on one night stands and furtive trysts. So when I got out in 1973, I came out. But it was still early days for the gay movement for equality, rights and acceptance. You could still get fired from your job for being gay. You could still be refused an apartment for rent for being gay. And you still had to endure the verbal taunts and sometimes the threats of actual physical violence.
Teacherken at Daily Kos
Detroit Mark at Daily Kos:
But I just thought there would be something terribly wrong to let June 28th, the Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, to go by without at least trying to pin my own personal celebratory card on the wall for my sisters and brothers to remember and celebrate.
So here’s to my Forequeers. Thank you girls, some of you adults with a full head of political activism who fought with years of preparation, and some innocent young kids left homeless on the benches of Christopher Park who stood up just out of the innate sense that something wrong needed to stop, all of whom made that night the night gay people would never go back into the closet without a fight.
But what if the cops never came? We’ll never know how that scenario would’ve gone down, but when you quiz an 89-year-old former cop who was part of the raid that night, it’s clear the Stonewall riots were destined to happen. And Seymour Pine, then the NYPD’s deputy inspector, has no regrets: “Yes, of course” the police did the right thing, Pine said in an interview with The Brian Lehrer Show. “When we took the action that we took that night, we were on the side of right. We never would have done something without supervision from the federal authorities and the state authorities. They were involved with this just as well as we were.” Insists Pine: “I don’t think not liking gay people had anything to do with it.”
Jaclyn Friedman in The American Prospect