On June 28, 1969, New York City police conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. The raid was ostensibly because the place lacked a liquor license—authorities didn’t often approve them for gay bars—but it was the latest in a long line of actions taken specifically to persecute the LGBTQ community.
Officers started arresting people, and when one hit his detainee, onlookers began to hit back. The police were forced to barricade themselves inside the bar as the mob grew in force and number, kicking off a series of protests that lasted for several days. The so-called “Stonewall Riots” (or “Stonewall Uprising”) weren’t the first time the country’s LGBTQ community had fought openly against systemic oppression and violation of human rights; in fact, the first gay rights campaign in the U.S. dates back to 1924. But the Stonewall Riots made an especially lasting impression, and Greenwich Village locals held a march to mark the anniversary in 1970. The theme was “gay pride,” and the LGBTQ communities of Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles also organized events for the occasion.
Though the Stonewall Riots helped usher in a new era of LGBTQ activism and “Gay Pride” became the slogan for an increasingly global movement, the U.S. didn’t recognize that significance at the national level until 1999. In June of that year, President Bill Clinton commemorated the 30th anniversary of Stonewall by declaring June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” Ten years later, President Barack Obama issued another proclamation updating its title to “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.”
“As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit,” he wrote [PDF]. “During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”