A History of Pride

Team MacDill celebrates its first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, which began May 29, 2015 with a Rainbow Color Run at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. LGBT Pride Month is an annual observance that celebrates the history and progressions in the LGBT community during the month of June.  (Courtesy Photo)

President Barack Obama proclaimed June 2015 to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month May 29, 2015. June is picked as LGBT month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that happened June 28, 1969. (Courtesy photo)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- In the 1950s and 1960s, very few establishments welcomed openly gay people, and those that did were often bars.
Between 1947 and 1950, 1,700 federal job applications were denied, 4,380 people were discharged from the military, and 420 were fired from their government jobs for being suspected homosexuals.

During this time, the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, was operated by the mafia and catered to an assortment of patrons including the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community. 

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, which had many violations including serving liquor without a license. However, the police also began arresting cross-dressers and gay and lesbian individuals throughout the raid.

As the raid made its way to the streets, the crowd of bystanders watching grew irate. They began shouting "gay power," and throwing bottles at the police, who had to take shelter inside the establishment they were raiding. The Tactical Police Force of the New York City Police Department was deployed to break up the riot. They succeeded in dispersing the crowd, but the following night it returned with more people. For days following the Stonewall raid, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.

Many consider the Stonewall Riots as history's first major protest on behalf of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The military, at this time, had a zero-tolerance policy for homosexuals. In fact, in 1953, homosexuality was considered a security risk by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and in 1981 the Department of Defense issued Directive 1332.14, stating that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service," and any service member who has engaged in, attempted to engage in or has solicited another to engage in a homosexual act would face mandatory discharge.

In an effort to lift the ban on homosexual service members in 1993, President Bill Clinton created a law commonly referred to as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). Theoretically, the law lifted the ban on homosexual service, but in effect it continued a statutory ban; as long as the service member lived their life discreetly, they wouldn't be discharged for being homosexual. Under DADT, homosexual military members were not allowed to talk about their sexual orientation or engage in sexual activity, and commanders could not question service members about their sexual orientation.

2008 marked the 15-year anniversary of the law, and by that time more than 12,000 officers had been discharged from the military for refusing to hide their homosexuality. During this year, President Barack Obama began his campaign for presidency and vowed to overturn DADT so that homosexual men and women could serve openly in the military.

Obama was successful and the repeal for DADT took effect on Sept. 20, 2011.

Since the repeal of DADT, homosexual service members and their families now have the right to earn basic allowance for housing, family separation allowance, family relocation benefits and retirement benefits (through the Survivor Benefit Plan). Homosexual service members and their families also have access to health care through TRICARE, military identification cards, childcare and legal assistance.

LGBT rights have evolved greatly, but also vary for each state. Currently only 13 states ban same-sex marriage, but commanders are authorized to grant seven days of leave for stateside couples and 10 days of leave for overseas couples to travel to a state in America and legally wed.

Today, homosexuality is no longer considered a security risk; rather, the exclusion of homosexual troops is now considered the security risk.

"And we must start from a position of inclusivity, not exclusivity," said Defense Secretary Ash Carter while speaking at the fourth annual celebration since the repeal of DADT. "Anything less is not just wrong -- it's bad defense policy, and it puts our future strength at risk."

On May 29, Obama wrote an official Presidential Proclamation proclaiming June 2015 to be LGBT Pride Month to celebrate a legacy.

"During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are," he said.