July Fourth events to recall bold 1965 gay rights protest

Marjorie McCann, left, and her wife, Carole Smith, pose for a photograph in Kennett Square, Pa. on Thursday, June 4, 2015. In 1965, gays and lesbians were prohibited from working in the federal government under an order signed by President Dwight Eisenhower a dozen years earlier. Those kinds of rules were one reason McCann, who worked for the city of Philadelphia at the time, watched the July 4, 1965 protest but didn't participate. "I was hiding behind a tree," said McCann, 75, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her partner. "We were all hiding, passing in the way we dressed and carried ourselves." (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Marjorie McCann, left, and her wife, Carole Smith, pose for a photograph in Kennett Square, Pa. on Thursday, June 4, 2015. In 1965, gays and lesbians were prohibited from working in the federal government under an order signed by President Dwight Eisenhower a dozen years earlier. Those kinds of rules were one reason McCann, who worked for the city of Philadelphia at the time, watched the July 4, 1965 protest but didn't participate. "I was hiding behind a tree," said McCann, 75, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her partner. "We were all hiding, passing in the way we dressed and carried ourselves." (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – On the Fourth of July 50 years ago, when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and a same-sex couple’s public declaration of love put their lives and livelihoods at risk, about 40 people took a stand by staging a peaceful protest in front of Independence Hall.

Philadelphia’s Independence Day festivities this year will include the usual concert, fireworks, parade and public reading of the Declaration of Independence, but will also mark the city’s important place in the history of America’s gay rights movement.

While these weren’t the first public protests for gay rights, nor were very large when compared with demonstrations that came later, many LGBT activists say they are worthy of being marked and celebrated as stepping stones to 1969’s Stonewall riots in New York City, a turning point in gay rights.

Some of the planned events include a ceremony in front of Independence Hall, parties and legal panels. Museums are also showing special exhibits.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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