Metro Weekly

Tammy Baldwin honors 50th anniversary of Stonewall in Senate floor speech

Senator also introduces resolution committing to secure equality for the LGBTQ community

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin – Photo: Facebook.

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) gave a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, long considered the seminal event in the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.

Baldwin, in her remarks, recounted the story of the police raid on the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, which sparked a series of protests, riots, and confrontations between police and patrons of the Stonewall Inn together with homeless youth over the course of the next six days.

“The Stonewall Uprising empowered thousands of LGBTQ individuals to emerge from shadows, to come out publicly, as they stood up for their community the night of June 28, 1969, and beyond, putting their lives and their safety at risk,” Baldwin said. “Along with public protests in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, the Stonewall Uprising became a catalyst for the LGBTQ civil rights movement to secure social and political equality, and inspired the formation of many advocacy organizations.”

Baldwin noted that the annual Pride celebrations that occur in cities throughout the United States each June are held in memory of the Stonewall Riots.

She also recounted the history of LGBTQ political progress in the years following the riots — including her own election to the Dane County Board of Supervisors in 1986.

“This is important progress. But we are not there yet,” Baldwin said. “We have more work to do. And, we must keep fighting to move our country forward.

Baldwin then pivoted to explain the types of discrimination that LGBTQ people face, and the lack of federal laws to combat such discrimination, issuing a plea to her fellow senators to keep the spirit of the movement alive by passing legislation to correct existing inequalities.

Among those pieces of legislation is the Equality Act, which was approved by the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives in May.

“Stonewall is a story of those who came before us, and let their voices be heard,” Baldwin said in her floor speech. “Those who bravely stood up, and spoke out, so that others wouldn’t feel compelled to live in silence or invisibility or secrecy. When we back at the Stonewall Uprising, and the activism that grew out of that moment, even the most basic progress seemed like it would take a revolution to achieve. So we had one. 

“We should be proud of the enormous progress we have made over the past 50 years,” she concluded. “Let us remain inspired by the courage of this story, the story of Stonewall.”

Baldwin, in conjunction with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), also introduced the first-ever bipartisan U.S. Senate resolution honoring the anniversary of Stonewall.

The resolution also condemns anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination, recommits to securing equality for the community, and commends the bravery and resiliency of the community over its history.

Twenty-two additional senators — including presidential candidates Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — also co-sponsored the resolution.

“The Stonewall Uprising sparked a half-century of progress for LGBTQ rights in New York and across our entire country,” Gillibrand said in a statement of her own. “Now, as we commemorate that extraordinary moment in our history and all the courageous LGBTQ people who were willing to sacrifice everything they had for their rights, I am proud to support this resolution and I urge all of my colleagues to join it too. Fifty years after the Stonewall Uprising, we all have a responsibility to keep fighting until we finally secure full equal rights for the LGBTQ community.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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