During the month of June, the U.S. celebrates Gay Pride Month, four weeks that commemorate the brutal police raids against LGBT patrons at New York City’s landmark gay bar, Stonewall Inn. It was on June 28, 1969, that a courageous group of LGBT men and women stood up for the first time against a police force who had for years been physically and sexually assaulting them, publicly humiliating them, and more simply because of who they were.
"The Stonewall riots were the beginning of our community fighting for an end to harassment and persecution by standing up for our human rights," said Eric Sawyer, co-founder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), one of the most famous HIV/AIDS and LGBT activist groups in American history.
The violence that took place at Stonewall that night sparked several nights of protests, and ultimately, America’s gay civil rights movement. "Stonewall empowered the LGBT community to fight for its dignity, and AIDS then forced the LGBT movement out of the closets and into the streets, creating an LGBT army fighting for their rights and equality – a war that is not yet won," Sawyer said.
To this day, the LGBT community continues to battle for equal treatment under the law, a new obstacle to full equality under the law being so-called "religious freedom" bills, which critics say could allow business owners the right to refuse their services to gay people because of their strictly-held religious beliefs. "The community continues to battle for an end to being treated differently simply based on whom we love, for our gender identity, and for trying to live our lives the way we were born, the way God intended us to be," Sawyer said.
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She had to have 14 stitches after being clubbed in the face by police outside of the bar.
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The Williams Institute is a think tank dedicated to researching sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.