In 2009, forty years after the Stonewall Riots, New York City rebranded itself as a Gay Destination. The city initiated a marketing campaign in relation to the ortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. George A. Fertitta, a chief executive of NYC & company, the city’s tourism marketing agency “estimated that 10 percent of the city’s 47 million visitors last year were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and noted that out-of-town visitors spent $30 billion in the city last year” (Chan). This shift showed how the city was trying to portray itself as a gay friendly metropolis to attract new visitors and to raise the city’s image as a safe place for homosexuals.
The idea for a gay community march started in 1970 with the Christopher Street Gay Liberation March. The event originated outside of the Stonewall Inn, at 53 Christopher Street, the morning of June 28, 1970, and continued up Fifth Avenue to end in Central Park. The march started with only a few hundred people at Stonewall and ended with several thousand by the time it concluded in Central Park. The marches formed to bring gay and lesbian individuals together and show they were a sizable minority population, something that mainstream society did not believe. The purpose of the march was to build a safe community for homosexuals and part political rally (they were uniting for legal rights). Specifically, in the 1970s there was a need to create legislation that would protect this community from police brutality and police raids of gay bars and clubs.
The marches continued to bring awareness to causes that were specific to the homosexual community. By 1973, the Christopher Street Liberation Day March was already an expected event. In a New York Times article, Homosexuals March Down 7th Avenue; Bars Represented To Each His Own’, John Darnton writes, “Singing, chanting, clad in festive and arresting garb. thousands of homosexuals and supporters of homosexuals’ rights marched through mid-Manhattan yesterday, past smiling policemen, wide-eyed tourists and blase New Yorkers who passed it off with a live-and-let-live shrug.” This shows the acceptance in a few short years by New Yorkers to the Gay Liberation Movement.
After rallying for political changes in the 70s, the 80s saw the need for AIDS awareness and healthcare reform. The 1983 Parade was organized by the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, whose members said it was “dedicated to AIDS victims everywhere” (Mcgill). AIDS heavily effected the homosexual community, specifically in New York and San Francisco, since those two cities had the largest population of homosexuals living in them. The media type-casted the disease as being limited to homosexual and needle using drug addicts. In AIDS Expert Sees No Sign of Heterosexual Outbreak, by Lawrence Altman of the New York Times, the Center for Disease Control stated, “The principal victims of AIDS in this country remain homosexual men and intravenous drug users, who together account for 9 out of 10 cases. Federal officials believe that about 4 percent of the nation’s reported AIDS cases were acquired through heterosexual intercourse, in many cases by the sexual partners of drug addicts.” This is further stated by Douglas McGill in his New York Times article, Homosexuals’ Parade Dedicated To AIDS Victims, where he states, “Of 1,641 cases of the ailment reported in the United States, the disease has killed 644 of its victims. New York City has reported 45 percent of all cases. Seventy-one percent of the victims of AIDS are said to be homosexual or bisexual men.” Through rallying for support and awareness the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community became aware that this disease could affect everyone. Education of safe sex and other practices can be linked to these movements. Many gay clubs and bars started providing free condoms to help support safe sex practices.
The 90s saw the petitioning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a campaign that allowed gays and lesbians in the military as long as they did not reveal their sexual orientation. Prior to 1992, gays and lesbians were banned from serving in any branch of the military. With the election of Bill Clinton, many gays hoped to lift the ban against homosexuals serving in the armed forces. To reach a compromise, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was formed by the US Government and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To the homosexual community this was appalling, and the 90s saw many lawsuits to help repeal this act. It was not until 2011, and several other Presidents, that this act was finally overturned.
The 2000s was a time when most gay and lesbians fought for the right to marry their partners and adopt children. Gay couples were constantly denied the right to marry. Many heterosexual individuals saw the right to marry to be only between a man and a woman, others turned to religious scriptures to justify their arguments. The right to marry was also debated in Presidential elections, where it was argued it was a State’s right over Federal involvement. Homosexual couples wanted to the right two marry for several reasons, but two of the most important were: If a partner was hospitalized, the right to find out or make medical decisions is reserved for spouses and immediate family members. This caused several conflicts because family and partners did not always get along. The second issue was adoption. Most adoption agencies will not allow a single unwed individual to adopt. Gay couples had to go through extra steps just to reserve the right to have a family. These issues are just some examples that differentiate homosexual and heterosexual married couples. Additionally, the GLBTQ community adopted a different stance to gain the right to marry and adopt. In Some Gay Rights Advocates Question Drive to Defend Same-Sex Marriage, by David Dunlap of the New York Times, states, “What we needed to learn from the military fight is that we have to build more political power before we win any gay issue on a national level.” Through marching, holding rallies, and gaining national attention to this issue, some states have granted gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Furthermore, to show the support of adopting children, Pride Parades started to include family friendly activities.
The 2009 Gay Pride Parade differed from previous years because New York City’s government and tourism groups took a larger responsibility in helping plain and market the event. The biggest change the city implemented was to move the parade from its typical Sunday date and put it on Saturday. This change was mostly due to Father’s Day. If the parade stayed on Sunday it would have conflicted with that holiday.
The city invested 1.9 million dollars in advertising. This campaign was announced by the city and included a push in marketing in Europe and the Continental United States. According to The New York Times, “The $1.9 million marketing initiative includes print ads in the June/July issue of Out magazine, outdoor advertising in Britain and Spain, and online ads that will urge travelers to ‘Join the Rainbow Pilgrimage and plan your journey.’ The campaign also includes travel packages that can be booked at a new Web site (nycgo.com/gay), and partnerships with the tourism Web sites lastminute.com and Travelocity. Bus shelters and street banners in the city also will promote the campaign, which includes a trailer for a 30-minute documentary about gay life in New York by the filmmaker George Hickenlooper” (Chan) The campaign’s slogan was “Rainbow Pilgrimage” and painted NYC as Mecca for the gay community. In addition to marketing, NYC took a larger role in parade planning by telling the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities where events should be held and what kinds of events they should sponsor.
The New York Times’: Stonewall Anniversary as Gay Tourism Event, allowed members of the gay community the opportunity to comment about the campaign online. The city painted itself as being a safe haven and a place where homosexuals are considered equal, but the comments almost all were negative about the city taking this stance since gays and lesbians still did not have equal rights. For example, in response to the article, Candice writes, “I’m personally sick of my queer identity being marketed and exploited when I’m still stuck here unable to get the same rights as most other people in this country.” This was a common reaction, but did not hinder the popularity of the parade.
Even with several homosexual organizations opposing the marketing campaign the parade was a huge success. The event was one of the highest attended Parades to date, which was impressive considering the bad economy. This parade also brought important attention to Gay Marriage, which at this time was being debated in several state legislatures and also with the Federal Government. The parade is a symbol that stands for hope and equality. Each year the GLBTQ community works hard to create educational, fun, safe, and diverse programs for everyone to enjoy.
Altman, Lawrence K. “AIDS EXPERT SEES NO SIGN OF HETEROSEXUAL OUTBREAK.” The New York Times [New York] 5 June 1987: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/1987/06/05/us/aids-expert-sees-no-sign-of-heterosexual-outbreak.html?scp=9&sq=AIDS+Outbreak&st=cse&pagewanted=print>.
Candice. Online posting. City Room. The New York Times Online, 8 Apr. 2009. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/from-stonewall-riots-to-rainbow-pilgrimage/#comment-403205>.
Chan, Sewell. “Stonewall Anniversary as Gay Tourism Event.” The New York Times [New York] 7 Apr. 2009: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/from-stonewall-riots-to-rainbow-pilgrimage/#respond>.
Chan, Sewell. “Stonewall Uprising Given Role In Tourism Campaign.” The New York Times [New York] 7 Apr. 2009: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/nyregion/08tourism.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1320347774-oc9zzHfJ+vD5TvCi+Tp6cQ>.
Darnton, John. “Homosexuals March Down 7th Avenue; Bars Represented To Each His Own.’” New York Times Online. The New York Times , 25 June 1973. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70615F63959137A93C7AB178DD85F478785F9&scp=5&sq=Christopher%20Street%20Liberation%20Day%20March&st=cse>.
Dunlap, David W. “Some Gay Rights Advocates Question Drive to Defend Same-Sex Marriage.” The New York Times [New York] 7 June 1996: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 30 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/07/us/some-gay-rights-advocates-question-drive-to-defend-same-sex-marriage.html?src=pm>.
McGill, Douglas C. “Homosexuals’ Parade Dedicated to AIDS Victims.” The New York Times [New York] 27 June 1983: n. pag. New York Times Online. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/1983/06/27/nyregion/homosexuals-parade-dedicated-to-aids-victims.html>.