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Stonewall Anniversary a Testament to How Much is Left to Achieve

Martine Kaplan — June 30, 2009 – 11:23 am | Barack Obama | Civil Rights | Domestic Policy Comments (0) Add a comment

Yesterday, President Barack Obama held a reception at the White House to commemorate Pride month and the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. In his remarks, he reassured the audience that he was committed to securing LGBT equality:

It was at this defining moment that these folks who had been marginalized rose up to challenge not just how the world saw them, but also how they saw themselves. As we’ve seen so many times in history, once that spirit takes hold there is little that can stand in its way. And the riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day…. It continues in your work and in your activism, in your fight to freely live your lives to the fullest….

The truth is when these folks protested at Stonewall 40 years ago no one could have imagined that you—or, for that matter, I—would be standing here today. So we are all witnesses to monumental changes in this country. That should give us hope, but we cannot rest. We must continue to do our part to make progress—step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind. And I want you to know that in this task I will not only be your friend, I will continue to be an ally and a champion and a President who fights with you and for you.

The event yesterday was a display of optimism and progress, but Stonewall was not commemorated with as much respect elsewhere. An unexplained incident in Fort Worth, Texas evoked more unpleasant memories of Stonewall: police raided a gay bar and arrested patrons.

Channeling his predecessors at Stonewall, bar owner J.R. Schrock said, “they treat us like outcasts. But even outcasts have a time to shine, and this is it.”

Joel Burns, Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, responded to the incident, explaining, “unlike 40 years ago… the people of this community have elective representation that will make sure our government is accountable and that the rights of all its citizens are protected.”


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