New Exhibit at National Constitution Center to Chronicle Gay Rights Movement

Chris Bartlett, Executive Director of William Way. Photo courtesy of Elicia Gonzales.

Christopher Bartlett, Executive Director of William Way Center. Photo courtesy of Elicia Gonzales.

Earlier today, the William Way LGBT Community Center announced a partnership with the National Constitution Center to present an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first LGBT protests in the nation, which took place in front of Independence Hall. This will be the first time a LGBT history exhibit will take place at a major national museum.

Photo: waygay.org

Photo: waygay.org

On July 4, 1965, LGBT activists — clad in suits and dresses to appear “normal” — carried posters that demanded equality for gays and lesbians in a society that treated them as criminals and deviants. The public demonstrations were sparked by one person’s failed effort to bring a discrimination case before the Supreme Court. They would become the first sustained national effort to focus attention on the discrimination faced by gay people, and became a catalyst for LGBT Americans to organize for equality.

Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court” will showcase artifacts, personal stories, and pivotal court cases as it chronicles the decades-long debate over gay rights, a debate that recently brought issues of LGBT equality to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court is set to consider federal marriage for same-sex couples in June 2015, the same time this exhibit opens.

“When you consider Philadelphia’s role in the LGBT Civil Rights movement, it seems only right that our great city, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, will host one of the largest LGBT Rights Anniversary celebrations in the nation this July,” said Mayor Nutter.  “From the Annual Reminders protests to our City government’s LGBT protections, Philadelphia embraces the diversity within our communities as what makes us a great city.  I am honored to be an LGBT advocate and ally every day, but especially in this important anniversary year.”

Speaking Out for Equality will be the centerpiece of a series of events planned under the leadership of the William Way LGBT Community Center and its Wilcox Archives and Library. The William Way Center will co-host programs at the National Museum of American Jewish History, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Independence Visitor Center, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. July 4, 2015 will feature a reenactment of the original Annual Reminder demonstration in front of Independence Hall.

The exhibit opens June 5 and runs through September 7. The National Constitution Center is located at 525 Arch Street.

Over the July 4th weekend, the city will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary with a series of events, culminating in a festival in the gayborhood. Click here to learn more.

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