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Marriage Equality at the Stonewall Inn

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The following is a reflection from Ross Murray, Director of Religion, Faith and Values at GLAAD:

I knew that the historic vote for marriage equality was going to happen tonight. As a relative newcomer to New York, I’m still getting my apartment in order. I have no television, and the thought of refreshing Twitter, alone in my apartment, all night didn’t appeal to me. So I wondered where I could go to watch the vote with people who cared about marriage equality as much as I do. The clear answer was the Stonewall Inn. This bar is credited for being the birthplace of the movement for LGBT equality. In four days, it marks the anniversary of the riots that set off the movement toward equality. It was surely the appropriate place to watch LGBT history being made.

The Crowd at Stonewall

When I arrived, the place was crowded. A mashup of popular songs was playing over the speakers and NY1 was on all the screens. Once the senate was called to order, the patrons chanted, “TV! TV! TV!” until the music shut off and the sound for the television started. The crowd was a beautiful bouquet of people. Several drag queens sat on the pool table to watch the screens. One man brought his father to watch with him. Another person was standing under the screens, sketching on a pad.

Several members of the press also realized this was the place to go for such a vote. NY1 would often use a shot of the crowd outside the Stonewall while discussing the bill and the proceedings. Inside the bar, there were at least four video cameras and a dozen photographers. Each time the crowd would react to a comment, the flashbulbs would go off. Each time NY1 showed the exterior of the Stonewall, or someone being interviewed, the crowd would erupt in cheers.

The patrons were clearly impatient to have the vote taken. Not everyone understood the procedure. There was confusion about what was being voted on at a given time (some people erupted into cheers when the amendments were passed, then were disappointed to learn that there was more to go). There were cheers (for Senator Duane) and jeers (for Senator Diaz). There were tremendous cheers when Senators Saland and Grisanti announced that he would be voting for the bill. At that moment, people knew that the wait was over.

And then, the count was taken. The crowd got quiet to hear the names of the “no” votes. When the final number was announced, the crowd went wild. Hands flew into the air. A deafening roar filled the room. People jumped up and down. And then the music came up and people danced where they were. Each song seemed to be communicating something to the crowd inside that historic establishment. First song: "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. Second song: "Empire State of Mind" (BOTH the Alicia Keys solo version, and then the JayZ/Alicia Keys verson). Third song: "We are Family" by Sister Sledge. Fourth Song: a mashup of "Born this Way"/"Express Yourself" (not this one).

Bartenders trying to keep up with the crowds

From that point on, it started to look like a regular Friday night. Except it wasn’t just a regular Friday night. There was more smiling. There were more hugs. There was more “Happy Pride!” and “We did it!” and even “I love you”. I tried to take some photos with my camera, just to capture the moment. I’m sure the photos don’t do justice to the sheer joy in the room.

And then I headed home. I started to make my way to the subway, and I realized that the crowd outside was even bigger than I had realized. And the people just kept coming. The party there was going to stretch long into the night.

Clearly, the Stonewall was the place to witness marriage equality in New York. This was the birthplace of pride, and tonight it was the marker of marriage equality. It was truly a blessing to experience such a moment in such a venue.