1969 Stonewall gay rights uprising remembered
June 22, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- From more socially accepted lifestyles to ending discrimination in the workplace, gay and lesbian rights have come a long way since the June 1969 incident that sparked the gay pride movement.
Commemorating the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, in which gays fought police harassment at New York City's Stonewall Inn, the National Park Service has added the inn and a nearby park to the National Register of Historic Places.
President Bill Clinton weighed in to by declaring June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, a White House first.
Since 1969, gays and lesbians have made serious in-roads in the economic sector. There are gay financial networks, corporate outreach for gays, major gay magazines with national circulation, and gay police officers.
On the social front, many gays and lesbians live openly as couples; some are raising families.
"I think we are a community that in some ways is reaching its power," said Paula Ettelbrick with the Empire State Pride Agenda.
Barbara Raab, a volunteer with the New York City Gay and Lesbian Community Center agrees. "You can look at every aspect of gay life over the past 30 years," she said. "Things have exploded."
Decades ago, gays had only dark, hidden bars as gathering spots. They lived under the constant the threat of arrest. All that changed on June 11, 1969, when some resisted police demands that they leave the Stonewall Inn.
William Wynkoop remembers hearing the Stonewall uprising unfolding near his bedroom window.
"Oh, I think I feel fear now, but not like what we experienced growing up," said Wynkoop, who has been with his partner for 50 years.
He might never have imagined that New York would boast a gay and lesbian community center with hundreds of organizations.
But gay and lesbian activists contend the movement has a long way to go.
"Five states say specifically that gay people are felons or criminals," said Suzanne Goldberg with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
But progress has been made. The bar where police once arrested people for being gay now gives awards to gay and lesbians for their good works.
"We as a community and as individuals have moved worlds since then, but there is still a very long way to run," said Raab.
Correspondent Maria Hinojosa contributed to this report.
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