July 2, 2019 at 12:30 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Activists, politicians, celebrities join forces in New York for Pride
Stonewall 50, gay news, Washington Blade
Confetti showered down in New York’s Times Square in the finale of Stonewall 50 World Pride New York’s closing ceremony Sunday night, June 30. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

A Stonewall 50 Commemoration Rally at the site of the Stonewall Inn gay bar last Friday and a World Pride closing ceremony in New York’s Times Square on Sunday brought together top New York elected officials, LGBT activists, some of whom were present during the Stonewall riots, and big name entertainers.

All of them proclaimed the importance and historic significance of the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village that are credited with igniting the modern LGBT rights movement.

Among those who spoke at the Friday rally on Christopher Street outside the Stonewall Inn were New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

De Blasio and Gillibrand, who are candidates for U.S. president, told the several thousand people at the rally that they would work hard to advance LGBT rights gains at the federal level and would strongly oppose the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back LGBT rights gains.

Singers Melissa Etheridge and Deborah Cox were among the entertainers that performed at the Times Square closing ceremony. Lesbian comedian Margaret Cho served as master of ceremonies. Elsewhere, Madonna performed a set that included her smash “Vogue” on Pride Island.

Throughout the event, including during the performances and speeches, several of the giant electronic billboard signs on the skyscrapers surrounding Times Square flashed messages in support of LGBT Pride next to images of rainbow flags.

Several of the speakers at both events came from countries in Europe as part of New York City Pride serving as the 2019 host for World Pride, the international LGBT Pride event that takes place every two years in a different country. This year marked the first time World Pride has taken place in the United States.

At the closing ceremony in Times Square, Lars Hendriksen of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Franciska Rosenkilde, Copenhagen’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and Leisure, announced that Copenhagen will be the host for the 2021 World Pride. The two thanked New York City for serving as an excellent host for this year’s World Pride and urged New Yorkers and others attending the 2019 World Pride to come to Copenhagen in 2021.

At the Friday rally, de Blasio said he was delighted that World Pride was taking place in his home city.

“I want to tell you I have a tremendous special honor,” he said. “I am the mayor of the largest LGBT community on the face of the earth. And I’m proud of that,” he told the crowd.

“We are proud of that. We should be so proud of how far we have come because remember, when they said the love that dare not speaks its name? Now we can shout that love from every rooftop, can’t we?” he said.

De Blasio told the rally that he announced a few weeks ago that the city is arranging for a first of its kind program to build statues of two transgender “heroes who helped fight for the liberation of everybody” – the late New York trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

“In this city we are honoring heroes who got ignored and who were taken out of the history book and were not given their place, but they led the way too,” he said.

Gillibrand said she too was honored to commemorate the significance of the Stonewall rebellion.

“There is no place better than New York City for Pride celebrations,” she said. “Right here celebrating Pride at the Stonewall Inn we have the ability to start the national conversation about the future of gay rights in America and the fights we are taking forward and the fights we will achieve,” she told the gathering.

“Right here 50 years ago this is where it all started. Our community rose up and fought back,” she said. “People were willing to risk everything, their lives, what they did, what they loved. They risked all of this,” she said. “And 50 years later all those battles were not fought in vein. Gay marriage is now the law of the land. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is in the dustbin of history.”

Nadler, who serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said he would continue to push for LGBT rights advances in the Democratic-controlled House at a time when the GOP-controlled Senate and the Trump White House are not supportive.

“I’m here to deliver a message on behalf of the United States House of Representatives because the rest of our federal government won’t do it,” he said. “That message is happy Pride.”

Nadler noted that the House recently passed the Equality Act, the LGBT civil rights bill that’s now stalled in the Senate.

“We have a lot further to go and we will be standing with you every step of the way until I can bring you a greeting not just from the House of Representatives but from the Senate of the United States and the presidency of the United States and hand over a copy of the Equality Act that’s signed into law,” he said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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