PHILADELPHIA — LGBT community members and leaders across the nation gathered at the birthplace of the nation on Independence Day to commemorate America’s iconic national holiday and the 50th anniversary of the first public protests for gay equality.
The gathering, hailed as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the LGBT civil rights movement, marked the 1965 protests organized by Mattachine Society leader Frank Kameny and Daughters of Bilitis leader Barbara Gittings. The protest was the first public protest for gay equality and continued each year until 1969, becoming known as the “Annual Reminder.”
The National Park Service allowed organizers of the commemoration to hold the celebration in front of Independence Hall, where a large replica of the Declaration of Independence and a statue of Thomas Jefferson was stationed behind the stage.
Speakers at the event included a wide variety of community leaders and celebrities, including comedian Wanda Sykes and Jim Obergefell, a lead plaintiff in the recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision opening marriage to all couples across the country. The events were opened by the Pledge of Allegiance led by U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, an openly gay service member who was the first to be injured in the Iraq War, and Jack Holmes III, an openly gay descendant of George Washington’s family. Other appearances included Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in a 2013 Supreme Court case that opened federal recognition of same-gender marriage, as well as Judy and Dennis Shepard, former Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and Walter Neagle, the longtime partner of openly gay Civil Rights Movement activist Bayard Rustin.
The first Annual Reminder march was reenacted during the event, with 40 people marching with replica protest signs in front of Independence Hall. : :
Baylor University, the largest Southern Baptist college in the world, quietly removed specific mention of “homosexual acts” from its student conduct policy in early July. They had earlier been listed alongside acts like adultery, fornication, incest and sexual abuse. The new policy specifies that “physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”
An Oregon bakery that had refused to serve a same-gender couple planning a wedding, and later released that couple’s contact information on the internet, has been ordered to pay $135,000 in damages to the couple. A 2007 Oregon law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has for the first time donated to an LGBT organization. The Mormon Church donated $2,500 to Salt Lake City’s Utah Pride Center in support of the organization’s program assisting homeless and low-income youth.
The U.S. Episcopalian Church voted July 1 to allow religious weddings for same-gender couples. The new national rule replaces a former regulation that allowed individual diocesan bishops the discretion on whether to allow religious services for LGBT couples’ weddings. The vote was 129-26 with five abstaining in the church’s House of Bishops at their General Convention held in Salt Lake City.