June 28, 2019 / 10:04 AM / 3 months ago

Pride and protest: Stonewall rally to look back and ahead

NEW YORK, June 28 (Reuters) - Activists from around the world will rally in New York’s Greenwich Village on Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of the LGBTQ movement and decry a wave of Trump administration policies they view as a setback for their cause.

The anniversary marks the moment on June 28, 1969, when patrons of a Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall Inn rose up in defiance of police harassment. The unrest triggered a national and global movement for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer people.

While the anniversary promises to have a celebratory air, activists see the occasion as a way to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s record, which many consider to be hostile to LGBTQ people. They also want to highlight the still-precarious position of LGBTQ people in many parts of the world.

“It’s always a good time to protest,” said Lisa Cannistraci, activist and owner of the New York lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson, referring to the Pride parade. “Trump got elected and it was devastating for the country, (but) there is a huge silver lining, and that is people are paying attention.”

Friday’s rally, organized by NYC Pride, commemorates the events that unfolded outside the Stonewall Inn half a century ago. It is one of the highlights of a month of World Pride festivities, along with a parade on Sunday, that are expected to draw up to 4 million people to New York.

Many LGBTQ activists have fiercely opposed a series of Trump administration initiatives, including a ban on transgender people for the military, cuts in HIV/AIDS research and support for so-called religious freedom initiatives that eliminate LGBTQ protections.

The White House claims Trump has long advocated LGBTQ equality, noting that this year he became the first Republican president to recognize Pride Month and that he has backed a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.

“President Trump has never considered LGBT Americans second-class citizens and has opposed discrimination of any kind against them,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

The message has been lost on many LGBTQ people, as the Trump administration opposes extending anti-discrimination protection to gay or transgender workers under federal employment law, a legal issue currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a ruling due within a year.

Elle Hearns, a black transgender woman who runs the Marsh P. Johnson Institute promoting trans human rights, said trans people also feel distanced from the corporate sponsorship of Pride events, especially when those same corporations support other Trump policies and allies.

“There are literally black trans women being murdered across the country in poor ravaged ghettos that these corporations have done nothing to invest any money in but have certainly encouraged gentrification. It’s left the community destitute,” Hearns said.

At least 10 transgender people have been murdered in the United States in 2019 after 26 were killed in 2018 and 29 in 2017, according to Human Rights Campaign. Nearly all were trans women of color.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Berkrot

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