On June 28, 1969, in one of history's first major protests on behalf of equal rights for LGBTQIA+ people, a police raid took place at the Stonewall Inn—a popular gay club in New York. This led to an uprising which soon became famously known as the Stonewall Riots. In the 1950’s-1960’s, homosexuality was not something people could safely be out about, and laws surrounding sodomy essentially made being gay a crime. During this time, legal punishments for homosexuality included large fines or even imprisonment. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community also faced high amounts of discrimination throughout the country, and many people faced physical and emotional abuse for their sexuality. As a way for many LGBTQIA+ people to avoid their displacement from society, many queer people would spend time at gay-friendly bars. Gay bars were known as “safe places” where people could express their sexuality without the fear of judgment, legal punishment, or violence. The Stonewall Inn was one of the gay bars that was a safe haven for many in the LGBTQIA+ community, and rumor has it that it owned by members of the Mafia. While places like the Stonewall Inn were seen as safe places to visit for LGBTQIA+ people, they were not completely free from police. Many times, police would raid Stonewall and charge people with acting upon homosexuality. Transgender and gender non-conforming people were also major targets of mistreatment, adding to the discrimination that existed during this time period.
On that famous June date in 1969, nine police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, but this time, people were not going to take the police violence lightly. Instead, it resulted in a major riot. While the police officers began to arrest patrons of the Stonewall Inn, fights began to break out inside the bar, people began resisting arrest, and people outside the bar began participating. As the riots continued, patrons made their way outside where the nine police officers locked themselves in the bar while they awaited for backup. During this time, rioters set the bar on fire while the mob became larger, attracting thousands of people. The riots continued for four days and ended on July 1, 1969.
The Stonewall Riots became famous, as they exposed the unjust treatment that members of the LGBTQIA+ received during this revolutionary era. While many people did not condone the acts of violence that occurred during the riots, the events of the Stonewall Riots created a long lasting legacy, which helped pave the way for LGBTQIA+ equity. Not only did the historic riots give voice to gay communities, they also opened opportunities around advocating for other marginalized people for their gender expression or sexual identity. Following the riots, the first Gay Pride event was organized. In 2016, President Obama made the site of the Stonewall Inn a historic site, marking the first National monument that celebrates LGBTQIA+ history. As a result of the Stonewall Riots, LGBTQIA+ communities began to be seen as more acceptable in society. Additionally, Pride events have become a yearly worldwide tradition, where the month of June is now known as Gay Pride Month.
The Stonewall Riots set the stage for LGBTQ+ equality across the United States, yet many people are unfamiliar with the relevance of the famous riots. Following the riots, gay rights began to be seen as more normalized; however, gay marriage was not federally legalized until 2015.