As one of Harris’s many firsts, she is now the first sitting Vice President of the United States to visit the famed queer space.
Vice President Kamala Harris made a surprise visit on Monday to the historic Stonewall Inn bar in Manhattan, where the 1969 uprising sparked the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement and Pride events worldwide. In doing so, she became the first sitting vice president to make a stop there.
Harris first saw Christopher Park, which is part of the Stonewall National Monument established by former President Barack Obama in 2016. The park sits adjacent to the bar and has been repeatedly targeted by vandals in recent weeks. Harris visited the monument with National Park Service Superintendent Shirley McKinney, who briefed and gave her a tour.
One of the bar’s owners, Kurt Kelly, and out TV personality Andy Cohen welcomed Harris when she made it to the Stonewall Inn.
“Gay Pride was yesterday, so I’m like, woo,” Kelly joked after embracing Harris and welcoming her to the bar.
“I get it,” she replied. “The morning after.”
As a small scrum of reporters and photographers and many joyful customers listened intently, Cohen asked Harris to “tell us something that we can be optimistic about this Pride season.”
According to Harris, the Biden-Harris administration will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community in the face of attacks by GOP state legislators and right-wing extremists.
“I look at these young teachers in Florida who are in their twenties, and if they’re in a same-sex relationship, they are afraid to put up a photograph of themselves or their loved one for fear they might lose their job. It pains me, but it also reminds me that we can take nothing for granted in terms of progress. We have to be vigilant. That’s the nature of our fight for equality. And so we’re up for it. And we are not going to be overwhelmed. We are not going to be silenced. We are not going to be deterred. We are not going to tire, [and] we’re not going to throw up our hands; we’re going to roll up our sleeves.”
She emphasized, “That’s how I feel about it.”
Kelly added, “To me, Stonewall means strength in numbers. Every time you put a rock on that wall, we become stronger and stronger and stronger. And you put your rock here today.”
Harris posed for selfies with patrons once the press had been ushered out of the bar. She hung out behind the bar for a short time, chatting with people there.
Harris briefly spoke to reporters as she was leaving the Stonewall Inn.
“This place represents a real inflection moment in this movement, which is a movement that is about equality, a movement that is about freedom, a movement that is about safety,” Harris said, noting the anniversary of the raid. “I’m here because I also understand not only what we should celebrate in terms of those fighters who fought for fundamental freedoms, but understanding that this fight is not over.”
She continued, “When I look at the fact that in our country we’re looking at somewhere around 600 bills being proposed or passed — anti-LGBTQ bills — book bans, a policy approach that is ‘don’t say gay.’ People in fear for their life. People afraid to be. To be! These are fundamental issues that point to the need for us to all be vigilant [and] to stand together.”
The Stonewall Inn was raided by police in the early hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969, as part of a pattern of harassment against LGBTQ+ establishments. A fight broke out instead of the patrons and allies dispersing. Six days of protests and conflict followed the raid and subsequent riot outside the bar, along nearby streets, and in Christopher Park. As one of the most significant catalysts of the movement’s dramatic expansion of protected rights, the Stonewall Riots are widely regarded as one of the most critical events in the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
Her motorcade then took Harris to the Upper East Side for the 24th Annual LGBTQ+ Leadership Council Gala, a campaign reception benefiting the Biden Victory Fund. In front of an enthusiastic crowd, actress Rosario Dawson introduced Harris.
Harris declared, “Pride is patriotism!”
She said, “There is nothing more patriotic than celebrating freedom, which includes the freedom to love who you love and be who you are.”
Harris then spoke about her earlier visit to the Stonewall Inn.
“I reflected on the determination and dedication of patriots like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson,” she said.
She also paid tribute to the late Jim Rivaldo, a political consultant who served as her campaign manager during her successful 2004 bid for San Francisco district attorney. Rivaldo was instrumental in Harvey Milk’s election to the city council in 1978.
Harris acknowledged Jim Obergefell, who was in attendance, for bringing the case Obergefell vs. Hodges, which established marriage equality nationwide in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
Monday was the 8th anniversary of the Obergefell decision.
“That progress is not inevitable. It does not just happen. It takes steadfast determination and dedication,” Harris said, “the kind of determination and dedication possessed by people like Jim Obergefell.”
Additionally, Harris acknowledged Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and gay California Rep. Robert Garcia, who were all in attendance. She also celebrated the election of two lesbian governors: Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and Oregon Gov. Tina Kotec, who were not at the event.
She warned, however, of the current political climate and promised her and President Joe Biden’s support in the fight against the backsliding of LGBTQ+ rights nationwide.
“These extremists dare to ban books by LGBTQ+ authors or those that have LGBTQ+ characters. Book bans in this year of our Lord 2023,” she said, exasperated. “Imagine!”
Harris continued, “As we are clear-eyed about this moment, let us all see also the larger context in which this is happening because this fight is not only about teachers in Florida or young people in Tennessee. This fight is on all of us because when you attack the rights of any American, you attack the rights of all Americans.”
As the country approaches another presidential election in 2024, Harris outlined the Republican approach.
“Let’s be clear about where this is headed,” she said. “These extremists have a plan to push their agenda as far and as wide as they possibly can. Their blueprint is to attack hard-won rights and freedoms state by state: to attack the right to live as your authentic self, to attack the right to vote, to attack the rights of workers to organize, to attack the right to make decisions about one’s own body.”
Harris responded to those developments with one resounding message.
“Here’s the thing,” she said. “I have news for these extremists. We’re not having that!”
by Christopher Wiggins
Source – The Advocate