Mark Segal

New LGBT History Exhibit at National Constitution Center

Filed By Mark Segal | March 07, 2015 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Chris Bartlett, Independence Hall, LGBT history, National Constitutional Center

National-Constitution-Center.jpgNext week a press conference will be held.

It's not unusual to have a press conference to announce almost any new program, but this one represents something that the world, and our community, is just beginning to recognize: the history of the struggle for LGBT equality.

The stage for this news conference will be the prestigious National Constitution Center. Next week, William Way LGBT Community Center will unveil a new exhibit that will be on display this summer at the National Constitution Center titled, "Speaking OUT For Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights & The Supreme Court."

The exhibit will showcase many of the laws that the LGBT community had to endure and shatter in order to achieve the limited rights we have today. Note those last few words: "the limited rights we have today."

I write that since many LGBT people still have no protections from discrimination and, in more than a dozen states, they have no right to marriage equality. In the case of the trans community, we are just beginning to appreciate their needs.

This exhibit comes at a pivotal time in our community (and the nation's) since SCOTUS is already receiving briefs on marriage equality and will rule in some form on the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage this June.

For Chris Bartlett, the executive director of William Way and a longtime LGBT activist, and archivist Bob Skiba, this exhibit has been a labor of love. But it also speaks to the issue of understanding how our community has fought the war for equality. While much of it was waged in the streets, board rooms, government offices or ballot boxes, a lot has had to be sealed by a court order.

This exhibit opens at a time when we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of those first public demonstrations for "Equality for Homosexuals" that took place every July 4 in front of Independence Hall, from 1965-69. Bartlett has asked the community to participate in the celebration, and many have joined the effort, fostering a sense of unity. Other organizations and museums will be holding their own exhibits, concerts and reenactments. This is a time to recall our history and how we got here.

Bartlett deserves a debt of gratitude for keeping everyone on a united path. In doing so, this occasion will be a citywide celebration of civil rights for the LGBT community and the history of that battle.

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