Gay rights pioneers

Lauren Hansen
The Week

A look back at New York's early gay pride marches

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Gay rights supporters celebrate the second-annual Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day in New York City on June 27, 1971. (AP Photo)


In the late '60s, the Stonewall Inn, located in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, was a beacon for the city's marginalized — attracting drag queens and male prostitutes to its dimly lit quarters— at a time when few establishments would open their doors to gays. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the bar, inciting a protest and violent riot that would become known as a watershed moment in the gay rights movement.

In 1970, New York's burgeoning gay community held what would become known as the first Gay Pride parade. It was called the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day march at the time, and it was staged on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

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After New York's Gay Liberation march, parades slowly spread to other cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. By the 1980s, buoyed by a growing gay-rights movement, the annual gatherings acquired a more welcoming name — "Gay Pride" — and an influx of less radicalized activists, which helped push them into the mainstream.

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Gay Pride Parade, New York City, 1983 (Peter Keegan/Getty Images)

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Gay Pride parades have since evolved into street-closing parties held across the country, in sprawling urban areas and small towns alike. Last year, in New York City, some 1.7 million people hit the streets, and officials expect attendance to jump by 15 percent this year.

Meanwhile, the Stonewall Inn has become a landmark for the city's gay rights history and culture. After Wednesday's historic Supreme Court ruling, Edie Windsor, the effervescent plaintiff of the DOMA case, chose Stonewall as her celebratory setting. Speaking to a jubilant crowd, the 84-year-old said: "To all the gay people and their supporters who have cheered me on, thank you, thank you, thank you!"

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Edie Windsor celebrates with New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in Greenwich Village on June 26. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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