Gay marriage: Patrons of Stonewall Inn noisily celebrate historic Supreme Court decision

Bar has long been at centre of LGBT rights struggle in the US

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The Independent US

There was never going to be enough room for everyone who wanted to get inside the Stonewall Inn. A long line of happy, grinning faces waiting their turn stretched down the pavement on Greenwich Village’s Christopher Street.

And so, on Friday night, the party to celebrate a historic court decision continued both inside and outside the similarly historic bar, perhaps the most important address in the long and often agonising struggle for LGBT rights in the United States.

“I think there is more warmth, there is more tenderness today,” said Ellen Gollen. “There is a feeling of relief. I had hope for [the court’s decision]  but I was not certain.”

Scenes at New York's Stonewall Inn

The raucous, celebratory party outside the bar at number No 53 flooded the street, which the police had sealed off in anticipation of large crowds.  Many hugged, danced and kissed; others stood in more quiet contemplation of the Supreme Court’s decision that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 of the US states.

A number were sprayed in colours that ran from red to violet.

“Four years ago when same-sex marriage was legalised in New York, I felt like a full citizen of New York. Today, I feel like I am an American,” said Bob de Luna, 54, who works as a health care public relations specialist.

He said he believed the change in the rights of the LGBT community, as underscored by the court’s decision, had been brought about by a number of factors – more public gay, lesbian and transgender people in public life and popular culture, and more people acknowledging members of their family who were from the community.

“The more people you know, the less alien it is,” he said. “People are not afraid of what is known to them.”



The bar has not always been such a happy, celebratory place. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, gay patrons refused to quietly cooperate with a routine police raid. The threw bottles and bricks and rubbish bins.

The protests lasted several days and become a rallying point for various people frustrated and angry at the city’s – and the nation’s – discrimination against the LGBT community.

A year later, the first gay pride parade took place in New York City. On Tuesday, the bar was granted landmark status New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“Forty-six years ago, it’s amazing,” said Matthew McMorrow, a coordinator at the Empire State Pride Agenda, told MSNBC. “This is the place where people were fed up with being brutalised, with being bullied.”

Steve Pickett, who is 60 and originally from the UK, moved to New York in the mid-70s. He remembered it as a wonderful, exciting carefree time, before the darkness of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He said it was “wild”.

Scenes outside New York's Stonewall Inn

Mr Pickett welcomed the court’s decision, but he pointed to dozens of states across the country that still discriminated against members of the LGBT community.

He said up to 30 states still do not have laws prohibiting employment discrimination in both the private and public sector and he said that New York remained something of a bubble for LGBT rights.

He remembered the activists who had fought 40 years ago for the freedoms the community was now enjoying.

“There were people who would dress up in drag because they could not not dress up in drag. And they were visible, they could be not avoided,” he said.

“But they were the heroes. They had to face a hard time. They were the soldiers.”