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50th Anniversary Celebration of LGBT Civil Rights Movement

By Visit Philadelphia - 2014-11-06 - Updated: 2015-03-20


Festivities from July 2 - 5th include panels, LGBT history exhibits, parties, festival and special events.

"The 50th Anniversary will commemorate the Gay Pioneers and celebrate 50 years of civil rights progress."

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With Independence Hall as the backdrop, plans were unveiled at a press conference for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the LGBT civil rights movement at Independence Hall on July 4, 2015.

The 50th Anniversary festivities from Thursday, July 2 to Sunday, July 5 include panels, LGBT history exhibits, parties, a festival and special events with the highlight the 50th Anniversary Celebration on a large stage in front of Independence Hall on Saturday, July 4.

Participating in the press conference were Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Independence National Historical Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod, Visit Philly President Meryl Levitz, and subsets of the Los Angeles and Philadelphia Gay Men's Choruses. Equality Forum is the organizing committee of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.

Independence National Historical Park has issued a permit for activities on Independence Mall on July 4, 2015, for the 50th Anniversary Celebration and will join the celebration on Independence Square.

The LGBT civil rights movement began when activists from New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia protested for equality each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall and Liberty Bell. It was the first time that activists from more than one city openly identified as gay and called for equality. The demonstrations, which were called "Annual Reminders," were spearheaded by Washington's Frank Kameny and Philadelphia's Barbara Gittings. Kameny and Gittings are recognized as the father and mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.

WHYY/PBS and Equality Forum co-produced "Gay Pioneers," a documentary about the Annual Reminders and how these protests laid the groundwork for Stonewall in 1969. There is a Gay Pioneers historic marker directly across the street from Independence Hall and Liberty Bell Pavilion that designates the site as where the gay civil rights movement was launched. The Frank Kameny collection is housed at the Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress and his home is designated on the register of historic landmarks. The Barbara Gittings collection is in the New York Public Library. A Philadelphia street is named Barbara Gittings Way.

"The 50th Anniversary will commemorate the Gay Pioneers and celebrate 50 years of civil rights progress," stated Malcolm Lazin, 50th Anniversary chair. "When 40 activists protested on the Fourth of July, 1965, it was the largest-ever gathering of gays and lesbians petitioning for equality. The 50th Anniversary is an inclusive celebration. It will reflect the leadership and diversity of the LGBT civil rights movement. The organizing committee has solicited advice from grassroots to national organizations and will highlight movement leadership throughout the celebration."

Meryl Levitz, Visit Philly president, said, "Since the country's inception, Philadelphia has been at the forefront fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. On July 4, 1965, the gay community chose Philadelphia as the site, in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, to call attention to the injustices against them. Fifty years later, we are proud to celebrate their bravery, determination and the role that Philadelphia had in that pursuit."

"The mission of the National Park Service is to safeguard the places core to our nation's heritage and to tell the stories of our shared past," said Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent of Independence National Historical Park. "Independence Hall has long served as a symbol for freedom and liberty, a place where individuals have gathered to air their grievances and work together to effect change. The protests of 1965 were one such event. We are honored to be able to participate in the celebration of this significant historical moment."

Scheduled activities include the following:

Thursday, July 2

Kick-off events featuring panels of nationally renowned experts. National Legal Panel in collaboration with the Williams Institute at the National Museum of American Jewish History and a National Politics Panel in Congress Hall, where Congress first met with sessions from 1790 to 1800.

A party at the National Museum of American Jewish History follows.

Friday, July 3

A screening of Gay Pioneers with distinguished panel will be held at WHYY, the Philadelphia NPR and PBS affiliate, on Friday, July 3. WHYY is located on Independence Mall. WHYY/PBS and Equality Forum co-produced "Gay Pioneers," a documentary about the Annual Reminders and how these protests laid the groundwork for Stonewall in 1969.

A party on Independence Mall follows.

Saturday, July 4

Luncheon at the Independence Visitor Center, wreath laying at the Gay Pioneers historic marker and the 50th Anniversary Celebration in front of Independence Hall, plus other special events.

Sunday, July 5

Festival presented by Philly Pride Presents in Philadelphia's gayborhood.

Each day features LGBT history exhibits at the National Constitution Center, National Museum of American Jewish History and Independence Visitor Center along with fireworks on July 3 and 4 and a free Fourth of July concert.

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