"Pride, hope, and light": Biden speaks at opening of Stonewall visitor center

Though debate moderators left LGBTQ+ issues off the docket, Biden championed the queer community at the dedication

Published June 28, 2024 7:02PM (EDT)

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center's grand opening ceremony in New York on June 28, 2024. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center's grand opening ceremony in New York on June 28, 2024. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

On the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, President Joe Biden dedicated the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center as the first LGBTQ+ history visitor center in National Parks history.

“Happy Pride!” the president said, with more passion than he mustered the previous night at a presidential debate.

“It’s your love for each other and your vision for our country that brought this center to life,” the president told visitors. “To this day, Stonewall remains a symbol of the legacy of leadership to the LGBTQ+ community — especially trans women of color.”

Biden took a moment to address the upcoming race, one which he framed as a referendum on queer rights.

“We’re in the battle for the soul of America,” Biden said. “When I look around at the pride, hope, and light that all of you have, I know that we’re gonna win.”

The event, attended by Jill Biden, Elton John, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and other LGBTQ+ activists, celebrated the opening of a brand-new visitors center at the Stonewall National Monument, the first landmark commemorated by the Federal government to recognize LGBTQ+ history.

“When people think of the National Park Service, they don’t usually think ‘queer and urban,’” Diana Rodriguez, leader of the park’s creation, said. “So we’re a very different type of visitor center.”

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The site sits adjacent to the Stonewall Inn, where in June of 1969, riots broke out in response to a police raid on the gay bar, marking the start of the gay liberation movement in the United States. 

President Biden was one of the earliest outspoken voices at high levels of government to support gay marriage and spent the first three years of his term championing transgender and gay rights, expanding Title IX protections, targeting workplace discrimination, and pardoning LGBTQ+ service members convicted under homophobic laws.

While his opponent, Donald Trump, has been outspoken in his opposition to transgender communities, after appointing Supreme Court justices who critics say have their eyes on gay marriage protections, Biden’s campaign says he will continue to fight for queer communities.

The president’s remarks came hours after the first presidential debate of 2024, one that notably avoided questions grilling former President Trump on his dismal record on LGBTQ+ issues.

“Joe will never stop fighting for this community,” First Lady Biden said. “Joe and I are proud to stand beside you today and every day.”

President Biden’s record on LGBTQ+ issues also includes passing the Respect for Marriage Act, which required the government to recognize same-sex marriages.

36 Senators and 169 House Representatives, all Republicans, voted against the Respect for Marriage Act.

While celebration was the main tune of the event, musician Elton John didn’t shy away from warning Stonewall visitors that the gains won since the riots were fragile.

“Over 540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures across America this year. Disgraceful,” Elton John said. 

By Griffin Eckstein

Griffin Eckstein is a News Fellow at Salon. He is a student journalist at New York University, having previously written for the independent student paper Washington Square News, the New York Post, and Morning Brew.

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Joe Biden Lgbtq Stonewall