45 Years Ago Today, The Modern Day LGBT Rights Movement Was Born

45 years ago, gay people would routinely be fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartments, thrown out of military service and even denied entrance to restaurants. Men could be arrested for dressing in drag.

Police would regularly raid gay bars and arrest bar patrons on the spot if they didn’t have identification, or if dressed in drag. Being gay, trans, or a crossdresser was officially considered a mental illness.

But that all began to change in 1969, when the Stonewall Riots in New York City gave birth to the modern LGBT Civil Rights Movement.

According to CivilRights.org:

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting “gay power.”

Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd. For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.

In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York’s LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word “gay” in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay. On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.

The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.

Watch a short film about the Stonewall Riots below: