Biden speaks at Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center to commemorate Pride Month

Joe Biden speaks at the opening of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center.
Joe Biden speaks at the opening of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center. (Screenshot: CBS New York/YouTube)

No national news network telecast reported on President Joe Biden’s address at the opening of New York City’s Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center to commemorate Pride Month on June 28. The  LGBTQ+ history event was held fewer than 24 hours after Biden delivered a monumentally flawed debate performance in Atlanta the previous evening.

Subsequent reporting on the president was focused wholly on Biden’s poor showing and what was deemed “panic” among some Democratic strategists, donors and Beltway insiders about Biden’s fitness as a candidate.

In New York — mere hours after Biden had held a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina where he spoke about his performance — the president addressed several hundred LGBTQ+ attendees and allies. Among those were singer and longtime AIDS activist Elton John, who also spoke, actor Neil Patrick Harris, fashion designer Michael Kors, singer Katy Perry and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Courtney Act.

Also among those attending was former NBA player Jason Collins, who in 2013 became the first then-active player in any of the four major pro-U.S. sports leagues to come out as gay. He said that “a lot of LGBTQ+ students aren’t really being told their history.”

Collins said in an interview,“We need monuments like this to understand where our country has been and where change needs to continue to happen.”

Biden, the staunchest LGBTQ+ ally in the White House in history, began by saying, “Today, I’m proud to unveil a new visitor center for Stonewall National Monument, the first ever LGBTQ+ visitor center in the National Parks of America.”

Biden said. “It matters. We remain in a battle for the soul of America. But I look around at the pride, hope and light that all of you bring, and I know it’s a battle we are going to win and continue to make progress.”

The Stonewall Center is located at 51 Christopher Street, the site of the June 1969 protests against raids by police of the Stonewall Inn from June 28 through July 3. The Stonewall rebellion is commemorated as the turning point in what was then called the Gay Liberation Movement — what is now the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. Friday’s ceremony took place on the 55th anniversary of the uprising.

The Stonewall Inn is the first LGBTQ+ cultural site designated as a National Historic Landmark and a New York City designated landmark. The bar is also part of the Stonewall National Monument, the first U.S. National Monument dedicated to the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Biden said, “This beloved bar became the site of a call to cry for freedom, dignity and equality and respect. Rebellion that galvanized the LGBTQ+ community all across the nation and quite frankly, around the world.”

He added that “the course of history was changed forever” after the Stonewall riots. Biden said, “You marked a turning point in civil rights in America. To this day, Stonewall remains a symbol of legacy of leader of the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans women of color who, for generations, have been at the forefront of helping realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

Biden received a standing ovation as he arrived at the event. The president told a story he has told many times about an experience he had as a teenager in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden said, “I remember my dad was dropping me off to get a license to be a lifeguard in Wilmington, Delaware, at the swimming pools.”

He said, “And I got out of the car… and two well-dressed men were kissing each other. I hadn’t seen that before. I looked at my dad. I was 16 years old. I looked at my dad, and he said, ‘It’s simple, Joey, they love each other. It’s simple.’”

The story received massive applause from the crowd.

Prior to the debate, about 4 in 10 LGBTQ+ Americans approve of how the president is running the country, according to a Gallup poll. Biden’s approval rating ranks similarly among all voters, at 42%, according to an NBC News poll.

NBC News reported last month that the Biden campaign planned to have some presence at more than 200 Pride events in 23 states, including all of the battleground states, to mobilize LGBTQ+ voters. PGN reported last month that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group, pledged $15 million in six battleground states, including Pennsylvania, to help the Biden-Harris campaign, citing concerns about declining support among LGBTQ+ voters.

As Biden stated succinctly at the Stonewall event, these are uncertain times for LGBTQ+ Americans. Last year at Pride, HRC issued a national emergency over assaults on LGBTQ+ civil rights and civil liberties by GOP legislators and politicians. PGN has reported extensively on the impact of these anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

Elton John, who was introduced by Biden, spoke to the crowd about those attacks, citing how more than 500 bills targeting the LGBTQ community have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year.

“As President Biden has reminded us today too, we face one of those seminal moments,” John said. “Do we stand up for our vision and our values or let misinformation and senseless scapegoating turn back the clock? No f—— way,” he said, as the president made the sign of the cross behind him and the crowd laughed.

At the start of his remarks at Stonewall, Biden looked for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) from the stage, and she jumped up to hug him. He then asked if Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — a longtime ally to both the LGBTQ+ community and to Biden — was present. Gillibrand ran on stage to hug him.

“He’s the best! He’s a fighter!” Gillibrand yelled on the way off the stage.

In 2022, Biden signed legislation into law to protect gay unions, particularly should the Supreme Court overturn its landmark 2015 Obergefell decision that same-sex couples had a right to marry. Last week, Biden pardoned potentially thousands of former U.S. service members who had been convicted of violating a now-repealed military ban on consensual gay sex.

During a recent rally at Temple University, Donald Trump criticized what he calls “transgender insanity” and said he would move quickly to reinstate the ban on trans and gay people serving in the military if re-elected. He also has spoken out against gender-affirming care for transgender minors along with their ability to play on sports teams.

Biden’s appearance at the visitor center follows Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic visit to the Stonewall Inn last year, the first by a sitting vice president. Biden visited the bar in 2019 as a former vice president and then-presidential candidate.

Google, Amazon, AARP, JPMorgan Chase and Comcast NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, are among the center’s founding partners.

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