By Laura Bell, Archivist
June is National Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQIA+ rights, community, and freedom across the country. It’s also a commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 (also known as the Stonewall Riots), and of the many protests, marches, and events that make up the Gay Rights movement and its history.
On the first anniversary of Stonewall, June 28, 1970, individuals marched in New York City in an event called the Christopher Street Liberation Day. This parade in NYC, along with other marches in Los Angeles and Chicago held on the same day in 1970, marked the first gay pride parades in the U.S. In the years that followed, organizations in cities across the U.S. joined the tradition of hosting Gay Pride parades.
Read more about the history of Stonewall and LGBTQIA+ activism in Emily Sullivan’s 2020 blog post Pride and Prejudice: A History of LGBTQ+ Civil Disobedience and Protest.
Pride Month was first officially recognized by the U.S. government when President Clinton declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in 1999 in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. President Obama and other presidents have since declared June LGBTQIA+ Pride Month.
Today Pride Month serves as a time to remember the history of the LGBTQIA+ fight for freedom and equal rights in the U.S., to celebrate the community, to educate others on current issues concerning LGBTQIA+ individuals, and to continue support for equal rights. It’s also a time to celebrate and remember key leaders and activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera founders of STAR, Larry Kramer co–founder of ACT UP, Harvey Milk, Gilbert Baker, Cleve Jones, and many others who have made significant impacts.
Over the years, LGBTQIA+ rights have gradually been solidified into law. In 2015, the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges brought marriage equality to the U.S., and in 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQIA+ employees from discrimination based on sex. However, the need for awareness, for equal rights and protections, and improved education continues.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in proposed state legislation that would limit the legal protections and rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals. The ACLU has tracked 491 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed at the state level in the U.S. in 2023. These bills propose limits to healthcare, limits to local protections, limits to activities in schools, and would allow religious discrimination. Violence against LGBTQIA+ individuals also continues to be a prevalent issue. The Human Rights Campaign identified 38 fatal violent incidents against transgender individuals in 2022 and 50 such incidents in 2021.
Pride Month has also evolved and grown into a mainstream annual event across America. Unfortunately, it has also become a target of controversy. As more companies take advantage of the celebration’s popularity to market to the LGBTQ+ community, other groups have voiced their disagreement. So far, at least 10 companies and organizations have been criticized and even boycotted by various groups for their pro-LGBTQIA+ products or advertisements.
For many, Pride Month continues to be an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to preserve their history and advocate for equal rights through celebration and education. In a time when some challenge the rights of others, it is an important time to remember the past and look to the future of LGBTQIA+ community in the U.S.
Libraries, archives, museums and other organizations have made many of their resources on the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, activism, culture, and more available online. As archivists and historians, we appreciate the value of education through accessible history and we hope you will enjoy these resources.
From the Library of Congress
LGBTQ+ at the LOC! Blog post by Neely Tucker
From the Smithsonian Institution
LGBTQ History at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
50 Years of Pride presented by the GLBT Historical Society and the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries, with the support of San Francisco Pride.
At HAI we welcome opportunities to assist all communities and organizations in researching, documenting, and preserving their own histories. Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about how HAI can help preserve your organization’s story.