Although the country has been celebrating this year’s historic Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the fight for LGBT equality has always had its roots in the borough of Manhattan. From the bars and meeting halls where the gay-rights movement was born, to the hospitals that led the fight against HIV/ AIDS, Manhattan is filled with some of the most important landmarks in LGBT history.
53 CHRISTOPHER ST.
The signature monument of New York’s gay rights movement has recently been the site of celebrations for the legalization of gay marriage in New York state, the end of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 in California, and this year’s decision by the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage nationwide. But what gave the landmark its status was the Stonewall Riots, a series of violent clashes there in 1969 between police and the LGBT community over a police raid that is widely considered the beginning of the modern fight for LGBT rights in the U.S. Today, efforts are ongoing to have the park outside the bar designated a National Landmark after the city gave the bar and park that status earlier this year.
OFFICIAL NEW YORK CITY AIDS MEMORIAL AT ST. VINCENT’S TRIANGLE PARK
WEST 12TH STREET AND GREENWICH AVENUE
When the memorial at this new park – which opened last month – is finished in the spring, it will honor New York’s efforts to combat the disease that ravaged its gay community. The park, which was constructed as part of Rudin Management’s redevelopment of St. Vincent’s Hospital into luxury condominiums, honors both the victims of the disease and the hospital, which housed the first and largest AIDS ward on the East Coast and is often referred to as the “ground zero” of the AIDS epidemic. The memorial will take the form of a triangular steel canopy at the westernmost end of the park, and will include passages from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” on its floor and a water structure at its center.
EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY’S HOUSE
75 1/2 BEDFORD ST.
The narrowest house in New York City was also once the residence of the Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who broke ground as an openly bisexual writer and feminist. Millay wrote some of her best work in the 8 ½-foot-wide house, including portions of her famous “Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.” Although Millay only lived in the house for two years, a plaque outside the residence still honors her time there.
THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL & TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY CENTER
208 W. 13TH ST.
Known simply as “The Center” by New York’s gay community, the LGBT Community Center has been open since 1983, offering the LGBT community access to health and wellness programs, arts, cultural events, recovery and family support services. Some of the most important advocacy groups in the gay community, including Larry Kramer’s AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) were founded at The Center, thanks to its open and safe meeting spaces for LGBT individuals. A 14-month renovation of The Center was completed in January, which provided a number of new and updated facilities, and restored a bathroom in which Keith Haring painted one of the last murals of his life before succumbing to AIDS.
159 W. 10TH ST.
While the Stonewall Inn may be the most famous gay bar in New York City, it’s certainly not the oldest. Although Julius’ has not always been welcoming to the LGBT crowd, its opening in 1840 makes it one of the longest-running bars in the city, and it has assumed a number of different roles, including as a speakeasy during Prohibition. But by the 1950s the bar started attracting a gay clientele, which led to clashes between bartenders and gay patrons. On April 26, 1966, four gay activists staged a “sip-in” to challenge the state Liquor Authority’s regulation against bars serving homosexuals. Accompanied by reporters, the group visited a number of bars until they were denied service at Julius’, which eventually led to legal challenges that reversed service bans for LGBT customers. The bar has been a supporter of the gay community ever since.