The New York Police Department apologized last week to the gay community for the 1969 raid of the Stonewall Inn, the fallout of which is widely credited with spurring the contemporary gay rights movement at home and abroad. Timed to coincide with Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, the statement by Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in part: “The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong — plain and simple” and “the actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.” The apology is the culmination of a decades-old struggle by gay activists for recognition of wrongdoing on the part of the police — one that few activists thought could ever become a reality.
With the surprise apology, the United States has taken its most significant leap yet into “gay reparation,” or policies intended to address the legacy of state-sanctioned repression of homosexuals. Although relatively new to the United States, gay reparation has been debated and legislated around the world for close to two decades and is a logical progression in the maturation of the gay rights movement. Having largely secured rights once thought to be virtually unattainable — especially same-sex marriage — gay activists, especially in Western democracies, are turning their attention to addressing the historical legacies of homosexual repression.