Today’s post comes from Andrew Grafton in the National Archives History Office.
This June the National Archives will join Americans across the United States and abroad in celebrating National Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, which honors the important contributions that LGBTQ+ Americans have made to United States history and culture.
Pride Month traces its roots to the Clinton administration. On June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton issued a Presidential Proclamation designating the month of June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.”
In his statement, Clinton stressed that “gay and lesbian Americans have made important and lasting contributions to our Nation in every field of endeavor,” yet “too often, however, gays and lesbians face prejudice and discrimination; too many have had to hide or deny their sexual orientation in order to keep their jobs or to live safely in their communities.”
National Pride Month highlights these contributions. Specifically, the month of June was chosen in remembrance of the June 28, 1969, riots at New York City’s Stonewall Inn.
Widely considered to be a momentous occasion in the progression of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, the celebration of Pride Month each June highlights the role that the riots played in raising awareness and shaping public opinion on the LGBTQ+ rights movement.
As an advocate for the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, the Clinton administration took many influential steps to increase public awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ Americans in a variety of aspects of society.
Though President Clinton’s statement was intended to commemorate the history of LGBTQ+ Americans and their impact on U.S. society, it also was written to push the enactment of further reforms.
In his proclamation, President Clinton stated, “I hope that in this new millennium we will continue to break down the walls of fear and prejudice and work to build a bridge to understanding and tolerance, until gays and lesbians are afforded the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans.”
Following the tradition of President Clinton’s first proclamation in June of 2000, President Barack Obama has made similar proclamations throughout his time in office. On June 1, 2009, President Obama proclaimed that June 2009 was to be known as “National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.”
President Obama’s announcement noted the progress of LGBTQ+ rights movements in the United States, and yet noted that “there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.”
Subsequent proclamations have been made by the White House each June throughout the Obama administration.
Today, National Pride Month has become a tradition celebrated by millions of Americans. Pride Month continues to be an important celebration of LGBTQ+ history and culture.
The National Archives is celebrating Pride Month with its Featured Document, on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building. This month’s featured document is a letter from Harvey Milk to President Jimmy Carter, which can be viewed through June 29, 2016.