NY exhibit on gay rights hits amid marriage debate

Mon Jun 1, 2009 1:25pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As exhibitions go, the New York Public Library's "1969: The Year of Gay Liberation" could hardly have chosen better timing.

With debate raging over same-sex marriage across the United States, the library in midtown Manhattan opened the exhibit on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the so-called Stonewall riots that triggered the modern U.S. gay rights movement.

Photos, documents, clippings from the gay media and other artifacts illustrate what was a shocking development at the time: homosexual men and women coming out of the closet to demonstrate for their civil rights, often at great risk.

The free exhibit will run at the main branch all of June.

"We tend to forget how radical these activists were. They risked their lives and safety for this cause. That's what this exhibition is about," said Jason Baumann, the curator.

Starting around June 28, 1969, the Stonewall riots refer to a week of violent clashes on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village between patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall and police who had periodically raided the bar, arresting gays under morals laws of the era.

The crackdown was also tied up in a dispute between the mafia that owned the bar and corrupt police officers seeking payoffs for protection, but it unleashed a year of protests culminating with the first gay pride parade in 1970.

The exhibit chronicles groups such as the Gay Liberation Front, the Radicalesbians and the Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries who took to the streets at a time when protests against the Vietnam War were raging and the Black Panthers were fighting for African-American rights.   Continued...

<p>The Gay Liberation Front marches on Times Square in a 1969 photo. REUTERS/Diane Davies/NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Diana Davies Papers</p>