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It was 40 years ago today – how the Stonewall riots started the gay rights movement

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  1. Robert, ex-pat Brit 28 Jun 2009, 3:16pm

    Stonewall UK can hardly be compared to the original Stonewall in New York…..since it doesn’t fight for FULL equality including marriage equality as gay American organisations do. What’s it going to do when more western European countries abandon all of the various forms of unequal unions available to gay couples for marriage as we have already seen in Holland, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden?

  2. Mihangel apYrs 28 Jun 2009, 3:41pm

    the UK will continue to call marriages legally registered elsewhere as civil partnerships here UNTIL someone gives them an almighty rocket.

  3. Cobus Fourie 28 Jun 2009, 3:44pm

    Stonewall UK is a pitiful organisation who completely shuns the transgender community. And domestic partnerships?! Separate yet equal – sound all too much like Apartheid to me…

  4. Christina Engela 28 Jun 2009, 4:25pm

    Stonewall UK is an insult to the GLBTI community and a blight on the face of the gay rights movement. It does not have the legitimate right to use that name – and never will have as long as it continues to assist in the fragmentation of the pink community and the dissipation of our strength through division.

  5. i have nothing but respect and admiration for those people who fought back at the original stonewall inn, iv nothing but contempt for the those running the modern birtish organisation of the same name for their disgusting sucking up to a govt that clearly doesnt want us to have equality and for their attitudes towards transgendered people (doubly offensive because transpeople were so instrumental at the riot)

  6. Nell Frizzle, thank you so much. This is an excellent overview of the events in very few words. Good journalism with reference to the social changes of the 60′s and the Viet Nam War. Also, the quotes were right on, especially “…there was just…a flash of group, of mass anger”.

    The only factor I would mention was the fact that the day had been quite muggy, and you know how an oppressive feeling comes over us in hot, muggy weather, what with the noise and the stench of the city.

    The anger was stoked by all these factors, and I for one, believe it was a Trans who triggered the riots. 40 years is a lifetime, and it certainly is worth celebrating.

  7. Brian Burton 28 Jun 2009, 10:32pm

    What I want to know is: What the hell is the use of Stonewall if nobody likes it? What a crazy world eh?

  8. Stonewall UK is just a new bigger closet to hide in under the leadership of Ben Summerskill.

  9. Mr Frizzell, excellent article, but one factor I think you missed was that it was also the weekend of Judy Garland’s death and a lot of people were pissed off and grieving at that time. So when the police got heavy-handed, it was like them trying to make arrests at a funeral.
    On Stonewall UK, I’m not going to join the criticism. I’m not a fan of the organisation, but I can certainly that the reason why we have the rights we have were because Stonewall had the financial clout to help fund cases to the European Court of Human Rights and whisper sweet nothings in the ear of the Government while pointing at Peter Tatchell and the far more radical Outrage as the alternative to Stonewall. Between them, Stonewall and Outrage made an incredible change in British life for gays, lesbians and transgendered people. OK, it’s not perfect, but it’s a fuck of a lot better than it was 15 years ago.
    On gay marriage, I’m with everyone here who says we need it. But I think it’ll arrive simply because of the bureaucratic pressure to make life easy for civil servants. Yes, we have a way to go to achieve full equality, but in terms of the English-speaking world, we’re still doing a lot better than most. I’m not suggesting that the UK is in a brilliant position, but let’s see how good we have it before we start castigating all and sundry for denying us gay rights. Ultimately, the Stonewall riots have had a far more immediate effect on gay equality in the UK than they have done in the US.

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  11. Darrien, I tend to agree with you. Perhaps UK Stonewall is like the United Nations; its needed but does not always get it right. However, its better than having no organisation at all and its surveys and research work have to be commended.

  12. Stonewall in the UK has done lots of marvellous things and has pushed the gay rights agenda vary far in the right direction. True it has got it wrong over full marriage equality. Civil partnerships were a step in the right dirtection, but do not go far enough. It would be a marvellous thing if Stonewall could decide to support full marriage equality, especially seeing as the poll reported on today shows a strong majority of the British public suppoprts it so it seems that they are out of date in siding with the homophobic minority.

    But please don’t overlook the marvellous work Stonewall has done in other areas.

  13. Hilary Clare 29 Jun 2009, 4:55pm

    Stonewall didn’t start anything internationally. If any one thing/person can be said to have started things, I’m backing Magnus Hirschfeld and the Berlin gay archives before WWII.

  14. hilary, i agree. stonewall started the modern movement but magnus was the man who took the first few steps

  15. xaria, Hilary Clare:

    Nobody loves a historical perspective more than I do. To be fair, however, I believe Magnus was inspired by Britain’s own Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), e.g. “Introduction to the Principles of Morals & Legislation”.

  16. I just find it sad that many people back in 1969 fought hard to stop the discrimination, and afford most of us these days in the manner we are accustomed. Nowadays some twat complains the local council isn’t paying them enough attention. “We want a gay bar” Boo-fucking-hoo.

    Is this what all those New Yorkers fought for? It just goes to show the way the world turns.

  17. About a hundred of us, from all parts of the LGBTQIN community, celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots at Central Station, Kings Cross, London on Sunday. We revived the spirit of Stonewall in style, starting with a protest march from the London School of Economics (birthplace of the Gay Liberation Front) to Soho Square and then to Central Station, a bar near Kings Cross, where we had a fabulous cabaret!

    It was a very special event – with an amazing, accepting, celebratory, community atmosphere. There was no sponsorship, no corporate branding, no entry fee – just a wonder mix of incredibly talented performers, dancers, poets, speakers and DJs who paid fitting tribute to the bravery of the Stonewall Rioters and all early LGBT rights activists. We had a special address from Michael Brown, a seasoned campaigner since the 1950s! He reminded us of what it was like to be gay before Stonewall, before the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) or the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in this country. Roz Kaveney, who was also a member of the GLF started the event with a poem in tribute to the trans rioters that we know about … and Michael Twaits brought the house down at the end with a stirring tribute to Judy Garland and the Stonewall Rioters set to the tune of Back to Black. Our comperes were Bird La Bird and Ingo Wotever. The full line up can be seen on the facebook event page I used to organise the event:
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/event.php?eid=107576799993

    The Spirit of Stonewall is not dead – it just needed reviving. What was beautiful about the event we staged was that it was all about community, celebrating difference, being proud and learning the lessons of history.

    Thanks, Pink News, for an important, representative and well-researched reminder of the his/herstory of this important anniversary!

  18. Robert, ex-pat Brit 2 Jul 2009, 1:51pm

    I’ve received a few responses from Stonewall UK on marriage equality. The bottom line is, it is NOT getting involved because it considers civil partnerships take care of marriage. That’s a huge mistake. I think its more about denial. True, civil partnerships are a step in the right direction but lets face reality. Civil unions have been abolished in seven countries for the universal standard of marriage. Civil unions or partnerships will NEVER reach that standard, just look at the state of chaos and confusion these have caused in the EU. There is NO universal standard in the member states for them, where some have various forms of unions, they are imbalanced in terms of reciprocity. Civil marriage resolves the imbalance across the board. One law for all, not a hodge podge of unequal laws for the legally segregated. Marriage unites, partnerships/unions segregate an entire group from the rest of society. That’s not equality at all.

  19. It’s incredibly insulting to the brave people who fought to change the law here in the UK to claim that what happened in New York in 1969 was the beginning of the gay rights movement.

    Male homosexuality was made legal in England two years earlier, in 1967, and that didn’t just happen as if by magic.

    We need to be very cautious about making American history ‘our’ history. It isn’t, and the US is always all too willing to claim credit for being first, whether it’s true or not (see the Enigma machine, invention of movies and many more).

    You could just as easily say that Quentin Crisp was effectively fighting for LGBT rights in the late 1920′s. Why was Stonewall different – because they fought the police? The fact is that sodomy remained illegal in the US until just a few years ago, whereas we succeeded in changing the law for gay men back in 1967.

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