Before Stonewall: Fourth of July Annual Reminder Day
“It was done as what we called the Annual Reminder Day, on Independence Day, July 4th, to remind the public that there is still a significant minority of Americans who do not benefit from the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Barbara Gittings, founding member of the Daughters of Bilitis.
From 1965 to 1969, the East Coast Homophile Organizations, or ECHO, bussed activists from the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis in to politely protest in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in favor of equality, opportunity and dignity. The 37 who marched the first day included Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Kay Tobin, Jack Nichols and Craig Rodwell — all important forces in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality movement.
An ad in the Village Voice on July 3, 1969, read in part: “The demonstration — a lawful, orderly, dignified one — is intended to remind the American public that in its 16,000,000 homosexual citizens, male and female, there is still one large minority of our people who are not benefiting by the high ideals so solemnly proclaimed for all on July 4, 1776.”
Round trip fare was $5.
The Annual Reminder Day was transformed in 1970 — the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) voted to make the annual celebration more relevant in order to reach more people by moving the time and location to commemorate the Stonewall Riots as Christopher Street Liberation Day. In 2005, Philadelphia commemorated the first march with their first LGBT historical marker.
But let today be our annual reminder that despite the amazing advances we have made, there are still millions of Americans, and Californians, who do not enjoy the full dignity, opportunity and equality that we as a nation aspire to.