Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Campaign (HRC), U.S. political advocacy organization promoting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals and communities.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was founded in 1980 by American gay rights activist Steve Endean as the Human Rights Campaign Fund (HRCF)
A political action committee (PAC) that endorsed and funded political candidates sympathetic to ending discrimination against homosexuals in health care and employment.
In 1989 the HRCF, while maintaining its PAC, grew into a membership-based organization that lobbied both for ending discrimination
in health care and for extending hate crime policies to include protection of LGB individuals.
In 1995 the organization officially became the HRC, expanding its functions to include public education on LGBT issues as well as political advocacy and lobbying.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, HRC advocated the legalization of same-sex marriage and civil unions.
It also advocated the passage of laws barring discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. In the early 21st century it claimed more than 1.5 million members
Gay Rights Before Stonewall
The first documented U.S. gay rights organization, The Society for Human Rights (SHR), was founded in 1924 by Henry Gerber, a German immigrant.
Police raids forced them to disband in 1925, but not before they had published several issues of their newsletter, “Friendship and Freedom,” the country’s first gay-interest newsletter.
America’s first lesbian rights organization, The Daughters of Bilitis, was formed in San Francisco on September 21, 1955.
In 1966, three years before Stonewall, members of The Mattachine Society, an organization dedicated to gay rights,
staged a “sip-in” where they openly declared their sexuality at taverns, daring staff to turn them away and suing establishments who did.
When The Commission on Human Rights ruled that gay individuals had the right to be served in bars, police raids were temporarily reduced.
The Stonewall Inn
The crime syndicate saw profit in catering to shunned gay clientele, and by the mid-1960s,
the Genovese crime family controlled most Greenwich Village gay bars. In 1966, they purchased Stonewall Inn (a “straight” bar and restaurant), cheaply renovated it, and reopened it the next year as a gay bar.
Stonewall Inn was registered as a type of private “bottle bar,” which did not require a liquor license because patrons were supposed to bring their own liquor.
Club attendees had to sign their names in a book upon entry to maintain the club’s false exclusivity.
The Genovese family bribed New York’s Sixth Police Precinct to ignore the activities occurring within the club.
Without police interference, the crime family could cut costs how they saw fit:
The club lacked a fire exit, running water behind the bar to wash glasses, clean toilets that didn’t routinely overflow and palatable drinks that weren’t watered down beyond recognition.
What’s more, the Mafia reportedly blackmailed the club’s wealthier patrons who wanted to keep their sexuality a secret.
Within minutes, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people began.
The police, a few prisoners and a Village Voice writer barricaded themselves in the bar, which the mob attempted to set on fire after breaching the barricade repeatedly.
The fire department and a riot squad were eventually able to douse the flames, rescue those inside Stonewall, and disperse the crowd.
But the protests, sometimes involving thousands of people, continued in the area for five more days, flaring up at one point after the Village Voice published its account of the riots.
NYPD police commissioner James P. O’Neill made the apology at a June 6 safety briefing.
“The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong — plain and simple,” he said, according to Reuters.
O’Neill’s statements—made after years of NYPD refusal to address police violence toward LGBTQ people during the 1960s—
mark the first time the NYPD has apologized for its actions during an era of widespread discrimination against people who engaged in same-sex relationships.
At the time of the Stonewall riots, homosexuality was considered perverted, pathological and even un-American.
New York police officers had a long history of targeting LGBTQ people, and regularly raided gay bars using liquor licensing as a pretext.
Like many other gay bars in New York, the Stonewall Inn was Mafia-owned.
For many patrons, this provided a sense of protection, as the Mafia was widely known to bribe the NYPD in exchange for the right to operate without harassment.
But on June 28, 1969, law enforcement did raid the bar as part of a wider attempt to shut down gay bars.
The Stonewall Inn’s proprietors were usually aware of upcoming raids thanks to their bribes, but this raid was a surprise.
A crowd gathered as police seized liquor and attempted to arrest Stonewall patrons, many of whom resisted arrest.
When violence broke out among the crowd, police brandished their weapons and escalated the chaos.
“The cops were, you know, they just panicked,” recalled Sylvia Rivera, a drag queen who was on the front lines of the uprising.
“Inspector [Seymour] Pine…did not expect any of the retaliation that the gay community gave him at that point.”
In the wake of that retaliation, police ended up barricading themselves inside the bar until backup arrived. A full-scale riot ensued.
Out of that riot emerged the first glimpse of gay liberation in the United States.
The uprising not only catalyzed the movement for LGBTQ equality, but gave unprecedented visibility to gay people fighting for their rights.
Today, the site of the Stonewall Inn is the United States’ first national monument to gay rights.
The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City.
The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street
, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Constant Raids at Gay Bars
The 1960s and preceding decades were not welcoming times for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. For instance, solicitation of same-sex relations was illegal in New York City.
For such reasons, LGBT individuals flocked to gay bars and clubs, places of refuge where they could express themselves openly and socialize without worry.
However, the New York State Liquor Authority penalized and shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals, arguing that the mere gathering of homosexuals was “disorderly.”
Thanks to activists’ efforts, these regulations were overturned in 1966, and LGBT patrons could then be served alcohol.
But engaging in gay behavior in public (holding hands, kissing or dancing with someone of the same sex) was still illegal,
so police harassment of gay bars continued and many bars still operated without liquor licenses—in part because they were owned by the Mafia.
The Stonewall Inn
Nonetheless, Stonewall Inn quickly became an important Greenwich Village institution. It was large and relatively cheap to enter.
It welcomed drag queens, who received a bitter reception at other gay bars and clubs.
It was a nightly home for many runaways and homeless gay youths, who panhandled or shoplifted to afford the entry fee.
And it was one of the few—if not the only—gay bar left that allowed dancing.
Raids were still a fact of life, but usually corrupt cops would tip off Mafia-run bars before they occurred, allowing owners to stash the alcohol (sold without a liquor license) and hide other illegal activities.
In fact, the NYPD had stormed Stonewall Inn just a few days before the riot-inducing raid.
The Stonewall Riots Begin
When police raided Stonewall Inn on the morning of June 28, it came as a surprise—the bar wasn’t tipped off this time.
Armed with a warrant, police officers entered the club, roughed up patrons, and, finding bootlegged alcohol, arrested 13 people,
including employees and people violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute (female officers would take suspected cross-dressing patrons into the bathroom to check their sex).
Fed up with constant police harassment and social discrimination, angry patrons and neighborhood residents hung around outside of the bar rather than disperse,
becoming increasingly agitated as the events unfolded and people were aggressively manhandled.
At one point, an officer hit a lesbian over the head as he forced her into the police van— she shouted to onlookers to act, inciting the crowd to begin throw pennies, bottles, cobble stones and other objects at the police
Stonewall Riots Apology: NYPD Commissioner Says 1969 Police Raids Were ‘Wrong’
Police crowded the Stonewall Inn, beating the bar’s patrons with nightsticks and brandishing their guns. In 1969,
it was common practice for police officers in New York and other cities to harass owners and patrons of bars that they suspected of providing safe harbor for gay people.
At the time, the NYPD was engaged in a broad effort to crack down on gay bars for supposed liquor license violations.
The Stonewall Inn’s patrons—drag queens, homeless youth, openly gay men—were accustomed to being hassled by the police because of their sexual orientation.
Tonight, though, they fought back. The Stonewall Riots became a landmark in LGBTQ history, setting the stage for decades of struggle for civil rights.
And now, nearly 50 years after the historic uprising, the New York Police Department has apologized for its role both in the events at Stonewall and the actions it took to uphold laws that discriminated against gay people