Stonewall Inn becomes national monument nearly 50 years after riots

Remembering the Stonewall Riots

NEW YORK -- In 1960's America, it was illegal to be homosexual. Police raids on gay bars were common.

But on the night of June 28, 1969, gay residents of Greenwich Village decided they'd had enough, and took a stand at the Stonewall Inn. They fought back against police.

The violence led to days of protests, ultimately igniting the gay rights movement.

It took 47 years, but the historic importance of what happened in the tiny Manhattan neighborhood has finally gotten federal recognition.

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Tommy Lanigan Schmidt spoke at the ceremony marking Stonewall Inn a national monument. CBS News

Sixty-eight-year-old Tommy Lanigan Schmidt spoke at Monday's monument unveiling. He was 21 when he took part in the riots in 1969.

"It makes me very happy to be here, and I think it means even more to newer generations because they have something through this to give them a sense of dignity," he said.

Five decades later, gays and lesbians can openly serve in the military and are free to marry and adopt children. But there are still challenges, and dangers.

Given the mass shooting in Orlando, New Yorker Scott Rogers says it still takes courage to be himself.

"We are not going to be subdued and scared and frightened on purpose. Nobody is going to make us feel frightened," Rogers said.

On Sunday, thousands marched past Stonewall Inn -- and in cities all over the world -- in parades to honor those who stood up to persecution that night in 1969.

Taking part were millions of people proud to be gay, and millions more proud to be accepting of those who are.