The organizers of the 50th anniversary celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights movement Monday announced that they will present Edie Windsor, plaintiff in the history Supreme Court marriage equality decision in 2013, and Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard and international activist for LGBT and human rights, with the International Role Model Awards at the Independence Visitor Center. Both will be participating in events through the celebration, including the 50th anniversary ceremony at Independence Hall on July 4, 2015.
“There are very few more deserving recipients we could honor as International Heroes, especially in this 50th anniversary year,” said Malcolm Lazin, Chair of the 50th Anniversary Celebration and longtime activist and LGBT historian. “Edie’s hard fought victory in Windsor v. U.S. has prompted extraordinary progress in marriage equality and Judy’s work with the Matthew Shepard Foundation has raised awareness across the globe on issues of discrimination and hate. Their courage and commitment to our community is immeasurable, their impact historic and we are thrilled they will be joining us to commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary.”
“In the documentary Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, there is a scene taken 50 years ago of our forerunners marching in Philadelphia, carefully dressed – the men in suits and the women in dresses,” said Windsor. “Last year when the film was showing in Philly at the gay film festival, I was overjoyed to see and be in the ‘gayborhood’ and interacting with the flourishing LGBT community, so I am really looking forward to being in Philly again this July. And I am thrilled and grateful to be receiving the ‘International Hero’ award at this upcoming glorious 50th anniversary.”
“I am thrilled to accept this award as part of these 50th anniversary celebrations, on behalf of Matt, my husband Dennis, our family and friends and of course the staff and supporters of the Matthew Shepard Foundation,” said Shepard, President and Co-Founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “We saw in 1998 that Matt’s death was international news and having an impact well beyond the shores of the U.S. Dennis and I have been honored to take on several State Department missions abroad, from Jamaica and Poland to Mexico and Singapore, to build understanding and support for equality in some very rapidly changing societies. As the world grows ever smaller and more connected we are honored to be recognized for being a part of helping make the LGBT community better understood and more connected with communities around the world.”
The organized LGBT civil rights movement was launched when activists from New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia staged demonstrations for equality each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969. When 40 activists picketed in front of Independence Hall in 1965, it was the largest demonstration for gay equality in world history with participants from several cities and became the first sustained effort demanding equality for LGBT people.
Organized by pioneering gay activists Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, these “Annual Reminders” laid the groundwork for the Stonewall riot in 1969. After Stonewall, Kameny and Gittings suspended the Annual Reminders and turned their energies to the 1970 march from Greenwich Village to Central Park marking the first anniversary of Stonewall.
From July 2-5, 2015 in Philadelphia, the 50th anniversary celebration of the LGBT civil rights movement will feature panel discussions, a screening of the documentary film Gay Pioneers with special guests, fireworks, LGBT history exhibits, parties, concerts, the 50th Anniversary Ceremony and wreath laying at the Gay Pioneers historical marker, and a street festival in the “gayborhood.” Most events will take place on or near Independence Mall in Independence National Historical Park.