November 6, 2014 at 10:45 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Philadelphia to commemorate 50th anniversary of landmark gay protests
Gay, Washington Blade

Frank Kameny is among the 40 advocates who took part in the original “annual reminder” protest at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1965. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and officials with the National Park Service along with local advocates on Thursday will announce plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a landmark LGBT rights protest at Independence Hall.

Nutter, along with Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Independence National Historical Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod and Visit Philly President Meryl Levitz are among those who will unveil plans to commemorate the “annual reminders” for gay rights that first took place outside Independence Hall on July 4, 1965.

The commemorations are scheduled to begin on July 2 with a series of LGBT-specific panels at the National Museum of American Jewish History and Congress Hall.

A screening of “Gay Pioneers,” a documentary co-produced by Equality Forum and WHYY in Philadelphia that examines the protests, will take place on July 3. A wreath laying ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first demonstration outside Independence Hall will take place on July 4 at a historic marker that notes the event.

The celebration will end on July 5 with a festival in Philadelphia’s Center City.

“Since the country’s inception, Philadelphia has been at the forefront fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans,” said Levitz in a press release. “On July 4, 1965, the gay community chose Philadelphia as the site, in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, to call attention to the injustices against them. Fifty years later, we are proud to celebrate their bravery, determination and the role that Philadelphia had in that pursuit.”

Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings are among the 40 advocates who took part in the first “annual reminder” outside Independence Hall in 1965. That number grew to 150 people on July 4, 1969, less than a week after the Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village.

The “annual reminder” protests ended in 1970 with advocates taking part in a march from Greenwich Village to Central Park that commemorated the first anniversary of Stonewall. This event was the first LGBT Pride march to ever take place in the United States.

“The organized LGBT civil rights movement began at Independence Hall and Liberty Bell,” Lazin told the Washington Blade. “We have this remarkable opportunity to honor the gay pioneers, understand the toxic homophobia that they faced and then obviously celebrate what would have been unimaginable 50 years ago for Frank and Barbara and the other pioneers.”

Equality Forum will chair the committee that is planning the 50th anniversary of the first Philadelphia protest.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • We appreciate all of Mr. Lazin's contributions, but he knows very well that, “The organized LGBT civil rights movement [DID NOT BEGIN] at Independence Hall and Liberty Bell,” and were Frank and Barbara still living they would have reminded him of it.

  • In Manhattan Playwright Larry Myers is penning a new stagework: “Independence Day Reminders.” Dr Myers’ rwm playwrights lab focusses on human rights & social issues. Myers was a post-Katrina volunteer producing Limericks From Undisclosed Locations” Myers , Director of The Jack Kerouac Literary Group, is also completing his memoirs– Six Degrees From Walt Whitman.

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