On the same day that the nation’s highest court found same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, culminating decades of activism for gay rights, hundreds of LGBT advocates and allies flocked to where the movement all began: New York City’s Stonewall Inn.
Waving flags that said “Love Rules” and swaying to music of The Village People, men, women, and children joined together in celebration of their long-fought victory. Friday’s decision, which made marriage equality the law of the land, was handed down just two days before the anniversary of the Stonewall riots – an uprising that effectively launched the modern gay rights movement. The event is commemorated every year with New York City’s Gay Pride Parade.
“I came down here right away,” actor Andrew Rannells, star of “The Book of Mormon” and “Girls,” told msnbc. “I just felt it appropriate to be in this spot, in this moment. I’m just so happy and so proud that so much has happened so quickly.”
The crowd outside 53 Christopher Street steadily grew larger as the afternoon wore on, even as the weather threatened to turn bad. Inside, the bar was overflowing, with a line of people extending halfway down the block.
The street was likely just as packed almost 46 years ago to the day, when in the early hours of June 28, 1969, gay patrons refused to quietly cooperate with a fairly routine police raid. Back then, however, the crowd wasn’t dancing in the streets, but throwing bottles and bricks and lighting trash cans on fire. A year later, the first gay pride parade took place in New York City.
“Forty-six years ago, it’s amazing,” said Matthew McMorrow, network coordinator at the Empire State Pride Agenda, to msnbc. “This is the place where people were fed up with being brutalized, with being bullied.”
As night fell, leaders in the gay rights movement came to speak at the rally. Evan Wolfson, head of the group, Freedom to Marry, said he “never doubted” that this day would come.
“But when it comes, it’s thrilling. It’s joyous,” Wolfson, who is credited with devising the state-by-state approach to winning nationwide marriage equality, told msnbc. “By claiming this vocabulary of marriage, we help people understand so much more… Who we are as gay people, and why we deserve equal protection under the Constitution.”
Even 86-year-old Edie Windsor joined the party, two years to the day that she won her challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a law which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
“I’m very pleased that today is the second anniversary of my win,” Windsor said. “However, I have a special request: From this day forward, let it be ‘marriage’ – just ‘marriage’ – no adjectives. Love is love, and marriage is marriage.”