Barack Obama addressed the LGBTQ community and its allies at Pride Live’s third annual Stonewall Day virtual event on Friday. The former president highlighted the civil rights movement that sparked social and political change as well as the ongoing fight for equality.
“We’re almost 51 years since the night when the patrons at the Stonewall Inn stood up for their rights. … Because of the movement they sparked, and the decades [of work] that followed, marriage equality became the law of the land five years ago,” he said.
Obama noted that this day is about celebrating and reflecting on the struggle of LGBTQ rights, and realizing that progress doesn’t happen on its own. He referenced the dedication of activists such as Edith Windsor and Harvey Milk, and emphasized, “I know that your voice can make an enormous difference.”
He encouraged others to make sure they’re registered to vote, protest peacefully and safely, and to “never doubt that the democratic story of change is still possible today.” Closing his address, Obama acknowledged that in 5-50 years, people could be gathering to recognize the achievements made during this time.
In addition to Obama, the event included appearances from Taylor Swift, Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Lilly Wachowski, Dustin Lance Black, Christian Siriano and more.
Perry said that she is “inspired by the strength and perseverance” of the LGBTQ community, and that she is here to “learn, listen and take action.” Lovato introduced herself as a member of the queer community, noting that the event honors “the spirit of rebellion.”
The event raised funds for LGBTQ organizations affected by COVID-19, including Trans LifeLife, Brave Space Alliance, TransLatin@Coalition and The Ally Coalition.
Stonewall Day was launched in 2018 by social advocacy and community engagement organization Pride Live as a way of commemorating the anniversary of the 1960 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, celebrating the LGBTQ community and recognizing the work that still needs to be done.