Gay Rights Activist Looks Back On Stonewall, 50 Years Later

June 24, 2019 - 12:26 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Friday marks the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots – which sparked when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village.

At the time of the raid, homosexual acts were illegal in almost every state and bars and restaurants could be shut down for hiring gay individuals or serving known homosexual patrons.

On June 28, 1969, police conducted a raid of the bar and began arresting patrons and employees – but those fed up with the harassment stayed at the bar instead of dispersing.

Tensions quickly rose and within minutes, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people began.

Martin Boyce, who came out as gay at the age of 17, was in New York City that night and witnessed the uprising.

“To be out in 1969, you had to be brave and lucky, the circumstances had to be good,” Boyce explains.

He said that now there’s so many possibilities for LGBTQ youth, but it all stems from the Stonewall Riots.

“It’s almost like gay Noah's Arc, I mean there were every type of gay person. If there was a flood, gays would've been safe for generations,” he said of the night.

Though the uprising didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was a night that would inspire many to take up political activism and lead to the creation of many gay rights organizations – including the Gay Liberation Front, Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD.

“I did feel different because we carried ourselves differently,” Boyce noted.

The now 71-year-old says the 50 years since Stonewall has made a world of difference.

He says that now, “people can just be themselves.”