Vice President Kamala Harris made a surprise appearance at New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn on Monday to mark LGBTQ Pride month.
Harris’ appearance marked the first time a sitting vice president had visited the space, the site of the June 1969 uprising that is widely seen as a turning point in the modern gay rights movement.
“This place represents a real turning point in this movement, which is a movement that is about equality, that is about freedom, a movement that is about safety,” Harris told reporters just outside the entrance to the Stonewall. Inn. “I am here because I also understand not only what we should celebrate, in terms of those fighters who fought for fundamental freedoms, but understand that this fight is not over.”
Located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, the Stonewall Inn has long served as the de facto headquarters for the nation’s queer activists. In 2016, President Barack Obama designated Stonewall a national monument, making it the first national monument in the country to honor LGBTQ rights. And in 2019, while he was a presidential candidate, President Joe Biden visited the site during Pride Month.
The Vice President’s surprise visit to Stonewall National Monument, which includes the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park and the surrounding area, comes at a precarious time for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the United States.
So far this year, more than 490 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, according to a tally by the American Civil Liberties Unionwith conservative lawmakers successfully enacting laws to reduce LGBTQ topics taught in schools, drag performances, and transition-related healthcare, among other things.
While some courts have recently ruled some of the newly passed laws unconstitutional, including anti-dragging measures in Tennessee and Florida and an Arkansas law that would have barred the state’s minors from receiving transition-related care, many of the measures enacted this year they remain. instead.
Harris referred to the record wave of legislation both outside the bar while answering questions from reporters and inside the bar, while speaking with Stonewall Inn co-owner Kurt Kelly and openly gay television host Andy Cohen, who works for Bravo. , owned by NBC News’ parent company, NBCUniversal.
“We can’t take anything for granted in terms of the progress we’ve made. We have to be vigilant. We understand that is the nature of our fight for equality,» Harris told Kelly and Cohen in a conversation in front of reporters. “We are not going to give up; Let’s roll up our sleeves.»
Harris’s comments also coincide with an increase in threats and attacks of violence directed at LGBTQ Americans. TO report from the Anti-Defamation League and LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, released last week, found that more than 350 incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism occurred in the US over an 11-month period beginning in June 2022. Also released last week, a report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit organization that studies extremism, found that between June 1, 2022, and May 20, 2023, there were more than 200 instances of protests. , threats and acts of violence directed at drag events and drag performers, an art form with deep ties to the queer community.
Stonewall National Monument itself has faced anti-LGBTQ demonstrations in recent weeks. Police are investigating three separate incidents of vandals toppling and torn dozens of Pride flags at the historic site.
Faced with anti-LGBTQ legislation and threats of violence toward gay and trans Americans, the Biden administration has taken several steps to push back.
During Pride Month last year, the president signed an executive order directing federal agencies to expand access to transition-related care and advanced education on LGBTQ issues in American schools. The order also restricted funding for the discredited practice of «conversion therapy.»
President Biden also signed legislation in December to codify federal protections for same-sex marriages, and his administration has consistently urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, legislation that would federally outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. .
The Biden administration has also rebutted anti-LGBTQ efforts in more modest ways, voicing support for the community, as Harris did at Stonewall on Monday, and promoting LGBTQ people to historic leadership positions.
Since taking office in 2021, Biden has hosted large Pride events throughout the month of June and decked out the White House with rainbow flags. In 2021, Harris also became the first sitting vice president to participate in a Pride parade, when she marched in the annual Washington, D.C. Pride celebration that year. And when the Senate confirmed Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary in 2021, the administration became the first to have an openly gay person in a Cabinet position.
Wrapping up his remarks Monday, which occurred just outside the entrance to the Stonewall Inn, Harris said the fight against anti-LGBTQ legislation and threats is «a fight about our founding principles as a nation.»
“Fighting proudly is about being a patriot, loving our country, believing in our country’s promise and ideals, and fighting to make them happen for all people every day,” Harris said. «That is why I am here today: to celebrate those who stood by 54 years ago with such courage and determination and the inspiration they gave to this movement that continues today.»