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Milestones in Gay History

In the past 50 years—particularly after the Stonewall riots—social, political, and cultural changes have improved the standing of LGBT people. Watch

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Stonewall Riots

LGBT Leaders Age 50+: What Does Stonewall Mean to You?

"Before Stonewall, for most lesbians and gay men, being open on the job was to invite an almost immediate dismissal and the stigma that came with it. Workplaces were merely extended 'closets,' where gay men and lesbians concealed themselves completely, and made very sure to cover their tracks, and bring opposite-sex dates to company occasions and parties. Instead of 'don't ask, don't tell' corporate-style, the real litmus test was conformity and hiding any traits, especially sexual orientation, that violated company (or society's) norms. After Stonewall, even these walls began to tumble down; visibility changed everyone's expectations."Bob Witeck, co-author of "Business Inside and Out" and CEO and cofounder of Witeck-Combs, a strategic-communications firm that’s been instrumental in giving voice to the LGBT community

"Little did my wife and I know when we got married in June 1969 that our marriage and the birth of the gay rights movement would coincide. Now when we celebrate our anniversary, we also celebrate our wonderful gay son, and we are committed to seeing that he has the same civil rights as his straight brother."John Cepek, national president of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)

"In 1999, the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the Stonewall Inn, and the sidewalk and the streets around it, and the park across from it (Sheridan Park) were entered in the National Register of Historic Places. That was the first time a site was ever recognized by the federal government, officially, as being of historic significance because of its role in gay history. A year later, the Stonewall Historic District was declared a National Historic Landmark. That's the highest level of recognition given by the federal government. The site of the Stonewall riots was given the same historical recognition as the Statue of Liberty, Mount Vernon, and the Gettysburg Battlefield."David Carter, author of "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution," the most in-depth account of the Stonewall riots

"We all stand on the shoulders of those pioneers. And already the next generation is leapfrogging us. I turned 50 this year, and I am happier and gayer than I’ve ever been. And I am inspired by the younger generation, who has embraced the challenge of equality with fearlessness and gusto."Hilary Rosen, CNN contributor and Huffington Post editor at large

"For LGBT age 50+, Stonewall today is a reminder of the dramatic progress we've made and a chance to look forward and hope for similar change in the decades to come. Now LGBT 50+ are called on to be pioneers in how our society deals with aging issues so that we’re LGBT-inclusive. What we've got to focus on now is really achieving health and financial security, two things which are more tenuous for our community, based on discrimination we still have to overcome."Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders)

"Although an overwhelming majority of Americans support a federal hate-crimes law that protects the LGBT community, 40 years after Stonewall, we have yet to see this legislation signed into law. The old adage that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it could not be more relevant today. Although we live in an environment where equality for the LGBT community is moving faster than at any other time in our movement’s history, it is imperative that we not forget our lessons from the past. Those who are old enough to remember being thrown in jail and suffering brutality for no other reason than for being themselves are living reminders of the hate and intolerance that can too easily permeate the fabric of our society."Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign

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