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Anniversary of Stonewall uprising celebrated in Juneau

February 16, 2019
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In this photo taken Feb. 9, 2019, King Key watches the Juneau Pride Chorus sing at the Stonewall 50 Tea & Dance event in Juneau, Alaska. The Stonewall Inn is a National Monument, but Lin Davis said what happened there almost 50 years ago isn't necessarily widely known outside of the LGBTQ community. (Ben Hohenstatt/Capital City Weekly via AP)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Stonewall Inn is a National Monument, but Lin Davis said what happened there almost 50 years ago isn’t necessarily widely known outside of the LGBTQ community.

That’s part of the reason Davis, an out and proud lesbian, read her poem “Stonewall 50 When We Come To It,” at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall held Saturday at McPhetres Hall.

“I was handing out flyers (for the event), and it seemed a lot of people didn’t really know about it,” Davis said. “We ran into many people who didn’t know what Stonewall was. As a lesbian, it just is in my blood to get this history out because it’s not being taught.”

The Stonewall Inn in New York City was a flash point for a series of sometimes violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community in June 1969. The events are often called the Stonewall riots, Stonewall uprising or Stonewall rebellion.

The demonstrations followed a police raid on the inn, which was a known gay-friendly bar at the time, and were sparked when a transgender woman of color asking a gathered crowd to do something.

In the aftermath of Stonewall, the LGBTQ community coalesced, organized and generally became more visible.

By 1970 gay pride marches were held in large cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

“It’s a huge milestone and right after, gay rights took off in this country and all around the world,” Davis said.

Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the event, Juneau’s Stonewall 50 Project is making efforts to commemorate Stonewall with events throughout the year.

Roughly 100 people gathered for an evening of food, song, drag and dance for Saturday’s event.

“That’s a big part of the project to get the word out,” said Tayler Shae, Stonewall 50 Project co-coordinator. “We want to raise awareness.”

“Do something,” the cry that started the Stonewall provided a call to action and theme for the event.

Maureen Longworth, Davis’ wife and co-coordinator of the Stonewall 50 Project, made a simple case for why it’s important to remember Stonewall and continue to be driven toward action: “Because we don’t have equal rights in our state,” Longworth said. “We don’t have equal protection.”

(Transgender ban leads to uncertainty in Juneau)

While Anchorage and Juneau have ordinances against LGBTQ discrimination, there is no statewide or federal law against refusing to rent to, lend to or employ LGBTQ on the basis of their sexual identity.

The lack of such laws was lamented throughout Saturday’s event, and State Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, called into the event to provide an update on a bill that would remedy that.

“The goal is to spread the virtues of the Juneau and Anchorage ordinances throughout the state,” Josephson said over speakerphone.

Twenty-one states and Washington D.C. have already adopted such laws.

Last year, Josephson sponsored such a bill that gained some support but failed to advance to the House Rules Committee, and similar bills were sponsored in the past by former State Rep. Beth Kerttula.

This year, Josephson said he will be resuming the cause but was not overly optimistic of the odds of such legislation passing.

“It’s tough sledding out there,” Josephson said.

However, he said it’s important for members of the LGBTQ community and allies to continue to talk about the issues that matter to them, and there is value in maintaining a dialogue.

That message matched the words that started Stonewall and the night’s theme.

“Keep talking about it,” Longworth said. “Keep doing something.”