What Stonewall means to the LGBT community

For many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, New York's Stonewall Inn is much more than a bar.

Julie Jacobson/AP Photo/File
A man lights candles on a memorial outside the Stonewall Inn for victims of the Orlando Shooting, in New York, on June 16. President Obama is designating the Stonewall Inn in New York a national monument, the first to honor gay rights.

President Obama announced Friday that 7.7 miles of Manhattan, including the historic Stonewall Inn, will be designated as a national monument, in commemoration of the Stonewall uprising.

New York's Stonewall Inn is best known as the birthplace of the gay rights movement. During the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969, the tavern's patrons fought back during a raid by New York City police. The bar has remained a pivotal cultural center for the movement for decades.

"I believe the national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness, diversity and the uniquely american spirit that has always defined us," Mr. Obama said in a video announcing the designation of the Stonewall National Monument, "that we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one."

The monument will include the tavern itself, as well as nearby Christopher Park and the streets in which the Stonewall Riots took place.

David Singleton, an older gay man, wrote about the significance of Stonewall for AARP on the 40th anniversary of the riots, saying that it is hard to imagine a world before the Stonewall riots catalyzed a the gay rights movement.

"It's hard to imagine police handcuffing, harassing, and arresting gay people for simply gathering in public – but that's what happened, routinely," wrote Mr. Singleton, "before Stonewall's spontaneous uprising of gay men and lesbians in New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood galvanized the gay-rights movement."

Stonewall's enduring significance was on display in the hours following a deadly attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., as New Yorkers flocked to the bar to commemorate the victims of the Pulse shooting. Several hundred people, guarded by police officers and a plethora of rainbow decorations, convened at the Stonewall Inn to protest hate.

"Stonewall is a place that serves as a point of connection for a lot of people, for feeling vulnerable," Joseph Pierce of Brooklyn told the Associated Press at the time.

Like Stonewall, many say that Orlando's Pulse nightclub played a major role in the LGBT community. It was a community center and sanctuary as well as a nightclub, according to many.

After the Orlando attack, acknowledging the LGBT community and their important role in our modern conception of civil rights has become more important than ever for many. 

This is not the first time Stonewall has been acknowledged, however. It joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and was already part of the Greenwich Village Historic District.

Most notably, New York City designated the site as an official city landmark last year.

"There are few locations that can be cited as the birthplace of a global movement," New York City Council member Cory Johnson told the Associated Press at the time. "One such location is the Stonewall Inn."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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