Lee Cawley, Diversity and Inclusion Network member for the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), looks at the theme of this year’s LGBT History Month and what it means to him.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which is also the theme of this year’s LGBT History Month.  I wanted to share why this was such an important historical moment and why events such as Pride and LGBT History Month are so important.

On the morning of 28th June 1969, at an unlicensed ‘gay bar’ in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, Stonewall Inn was a safe-haven for the LGBT community.

At that time in New York, LGBT people were repressed by the city authorities and the police. Bars that attracted gay clientele were refused licences to operate and police regularly raided the establishments in the area or demanded payments from owners to avoid being raided.

Later that night, the riots began.

The police raided the Stonewall Inn, arresting some of the clientele, but the commotion caused a crowd to gather outside which easily outnumbered the police presence.

As the police came out of the bar with the patrons the crowd attempted to free the arrested people from the police. This struggle for basic human rights escalated into two days of fierce conflict between the local community and the police, which drew unprecedented global media attention.

Read more about the Stonewall riots.

This attention changed public opinion and eventually led to changes in attitude of the police and city authorities towards the LGBT community in New York and other US cities.

The riots are a cornerstone of LGBT history and kick-started the LGBT rights movement across the world, leading to the gradual reduction in anti-LGBT laws over the next 50 years.

We saw changes to laws across the globe and attitudes towards the LGBT community change for the better. Though there is still more to be done.

That’s why the 28th June continues to be a seminal date. The LGBT community is still treated differently and seen as second class citizens in some countries.  We must continue raising awareness and build on the progress of activists throughout history who fought for the human rights of LGBT people.

We’re attempting to do just that by celebrating LGBT History Month at the NHSBSA. We’re serious about creating an inclusive work environment where everyone feels welcome. Our recent placement in the Stonewall Top 100 employers is a testament to that, but it’s important that we continue to use our power and influence to protect and support LGBT people.

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