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Mark Segal: Honoring LGBT pioneers at Independence Hall

Something happened a few weeks ago that literally made me stop and take note of how far we have come in our struggle for equality.

I have been an LGBT activist now for 45-plus years, so I can recall the time when you'd request a meeting and you'd simply be ignored or when we had to storm offices, hold sit-ins, and chain ourselves. Then, when the doors finally opened, the people on the other side listened politely and explained why they couldn't do whatever we were asking for.

So a few weeks ago, I requested a meeting with the board of one of my favorite musical groups, the world-famous Philly POPS! They knew in advance what I was coming to ask.

I must admit I'm getting a little emotional as I write this, since I now recall meetings in which I'd actually beg for relief for our youth or seniors, but this was different. The POPS! welcomed me cheerfully and actually appreciated the reason for my visit and understood its importance to our community. And what's more important, they felt the same.

I explained that this July would be the 50th anniversary of the nation's first LGBT-rights demonstrations, held here in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. And that the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which developed the LGBT-friendly senior affordable building, had reached out to participants of the early demonstration and now was bringing some of those original marchers to Philadelphia.

And since the Philly POPS! perform a patriotic concert in front of Independence Hall the evening of July 3, I asked if they could add a tribute to those marchers — to actually honor those who marched, demonstrated on that spot 50 years ago. I had chills as I said it, and every person in that boardroom, from the board president to conductor Michael Krajewski, understood the historical aspect of what they were being asked and embraced it with pride. All they wanted to know was what they could do to make it happen.

So plan on joining us for a free concert on Independence Mall on July 3 to honor  the nation on the eve of its birthday, and this year, mark the 50th anniversary of the first public demonstrations for LGBT rights. Come out and not only celebrate our community's pioneers, but meet them yourself.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook  or Twitter @PhilaGayNews.