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It has been over 45 years since an early morning police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village, set the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on an unwavering path toward claiming its rights to be recognized and accepted into mainstream society.
Raids at the Stonewall Inn and other clubs and bars like it were not uncommon during that time; in fact, they were the norm. Serving alcohol to people who are LGBT was illegal at the time. But this raid, on the morning of June 28, 1969, took a turn from the usual and erupted into violence and protests that lasted for days, triggering the development of American Gay Rights Movement.
Around the country, people began to come together, taking a strong and unified stance against LGBT discrimination and injustices. The LGBT community was no longer willing to accept the imposed role of second-class citizen because its sexual and gender orientation did not fit with the established norm of society. And within one year of the Stonewall Raid, June 28, 1970, the LGBT community raised awareness of its plight by commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Raid with gay pride marches taking place that weekend in major cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These parades began to be held annually around the country, becoming a part of the tapestry of the LGBT movement and leading to the development of LGBT Pride month, which features activities celebrating the lives of LGBT people and the progress that has been made toward equal citizenship in society.
Over the years, the LGBT community has had many watershed moments to celebrate, such as the repeal in 2011 of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” that required people who are LGBT to conceal their sexual orientation while serving the in the U.S. military; the repeal of the 2013 Defense of Marriage Act that preserved the institution of marriage as between a male and a female; and the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples constitutionally have the fundamental right to marry.
The community has made strong advances forward, but still faces many piercing challenges. Currently, there are 21 states that have religious freedom laws, giving citizens the right to refuse service to someone due to religious beliefs. There are 28 states where people who are LGBT can be fired by their employers if found to be gay. And, in addition to these laws, and also the highly controversial 'Bathroom Bills' that restrict transgender people from using facilities that match their gender identity, amongst many states, there are a vast number of bills being introduced that would impede the rights of those in the LGBT community.
Almost half a century after the Stonewall Riots, the LGBT community has many more miles ahead in its fight for full equality and inclusion. Yet, this June, as the community celebrates LGBT pride month, it will be backed by gripping harbingers of hope such as President Obama's efforts to name the Stonewall Inn as the first national monument honoring LGBT rights. And also, through the support and empowering words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch as she addressed North Carolina's passing of the “Bathroom Bill” this May by telling the transgender community, “We see you. We stand with you, and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”