Equality in NY

I had this post saved as a draft for the last week or so — oops:

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It’s a great summer to be in New York City. I was watching the news on same sex marriage pretty closely, and as soon as the religious exemptions amendment passed — signalling that passage of the bill itself was just a matter of time — bloggers started noting that crowds were gathering in front of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. I live about a mile east of there in the East Village, so I headed out immediately to be there at the historic moment.

This may come as a surprise for gay rights advocates — or for pretty much anyone who didn’t go to an extremely conservative university — but I hadn’t heard of the Stonewall Riots until a year or two ago. The Stonewall has been on my long list of historical sights to see in New York but I hadn’t been there yet, and what better time to visit than on this historic occasion?

Sure enough, there was a big crowd gathered and quite a few media outlets on hand. I snapped this shot of an endearing older couple being interviewed:

And here are two NYPD officers doing crowd control, chatting amiably with the celebrants:

While the pace of change can often seem glacial for those eagerly advocating (as they rightly should) for justice now, it struck me that on a grander scale this progress has come impressively fast. Just a little over 40 years ago — half a lifetime — the police were systematically oppressing and raiding the few gay establishments in New York. Their actions were hardly inconsistent with popular will either, as there really was no gay rights movement yet. And now, in 2011, there the officers were, guarding a peaceful and spontaneous celebration by New Yorkers — male and female, gay and straight — of marriage equality, something that was probably inconceivable to the Stonewall rioters. Yes, the law is not yet perfect and we still have far to go, but for that night it felt right to pause and reflect on just how far we’ve come.

11

07 2011

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