The evening of June 28th, 1969 patrons at a local New York bar called Stonewall Inn were forced out of the bar and into the streets. The patrons at the time had broken a law by actively and openly dancing with one another. Around 13 people were arrested that night, the number included employees and people who violated the State of New York clothing statute. This led to a protest and even a riot, order was restored but the U.S. was forever changed by what came to known as the Stonewall riot.
At first glance, we all may consider being arrested for choice of clothing as well as dancing as an unethical or unjust reason for an arrest. But at the time it was a lawful arrest because individuals found dancing with someone of the same sex or found not to be in what is considered gender-appropriate clothing, could be arrested according to New York State Law. The incident at Stonewall Inn led to five days of protest and political activism for the LGBTQ community. And in time, this led the national recognition for Pride Month. Pride Month is held to honor the historical impact the LGBTQ Community has had on the nation and the world.
It is for certain that not all will agree with or celebrate Pride month. But it is also for certain that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of differing opinions, lifestyle or beliefs. I am not asking anyone to celebrate or telling anyone not to celebrate. All that I ask is that we continue to see others as vital components to the society in which we live. We need to treat each other in a loving and caring manner. We need to understand that tolerance does not mean we agree. Tolerance means we recognize each other’s constitutional liberties granted by law and acknowledge the existence of opinions or behaviors that do not agree with our own. Tolerance is how we can come to appreciate and acknowledge the contributions of individuals such as Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk and Audre Lorde who sought to preserve the civil liberties of all people not just those who agreed with them.
We live in a democracy that is not created to force others to agree with you and diminish their beliefs. It is built to ensure everyone has an equal voice and opportunity to be heard, and have their constitutional liberties protected by law. We live in the greatest democracy in the world; let us continue to strive forward to make it better for those who will follow in the years to come.