Brief History of Queer Political Action

Fight for LGBTQ Rights Throughout History

Gay History Quiz

LGBTQ Modern Historical Overview


1900 - Oscar Wilde, renowned gay author, dies

1903 - First recorded raid on a gay bath house (New York City, 12 men charged with sodomy)

1907 - Gertrude Stein meets Alice B. Toklas

1912 - Portland Vice Scandal, leading to forced sterilization for gay suspects

1916 - Blue Discharge, or Blue Ticket, used to remove homosexuals from US military

1919 - Film Different From Others released, first ever pro-gay film

1919 - Institute of Sexology founded by Alfred Kinsey
1920 - Harvard Secret Courts, effort to purge campus homosexuals

1923 - FBI labels Emma Goldman "most dangerous woman in America" for her open endorsement of gay rights

1923 - Lesbian Elsa Gidlow publishes On a Grey Thread, first volume of openly lesbian love poems in US

1924 - Society for Human Rights, founded by Henry Gerber, first gay rights organization in US

1927 - Wings becomes first film with homosexual content to win Best Picture Academy Award

1928 - Radclyffe Hall publishes lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness

1931 - In Germany, Dora Richter (born Rudolph Richter) is first transgender woman to undergo vagioplasty

1933 - Hitler bans gay press
1934 - Gay people required to wear pink triangles in Nazi Germany
1936 - Actor William Haines retires from acting to live with his partner Jimmie Shields

1937 - Hein Vos is first known gay member of Dutch House of Representatives

1939 - Frances Rummell publishes first explicitly lesbian autobiography

1944 - Poet Robert Duncan is first prominent American to reveal his homosexuality, calling homosexuals an oppressed minority

1947 - First US lesbian magazine, Vice Versa, published
1948 - Kinsey Report released


1950 -
Sen. Joseph McCarthy begins investigation of homosexuals who work for the US government, commencing the Lavender Scare

1951 - Mattachine Society was founded to help homosexuals realize their collective histories and experiences
1951 - Roberta Cowell becomes first British trans woman to undergo sex reassignment surgery

1952 - One Incorporated was founded

1952 - Alan Turing (Father of Modern Computers) convicted of being homosexual

1952 - Christine Jorgensen becomes first American to have gender reassignment surgery

1952 - Virginia Prince, male crossdresser, publishes Transvestia: Journal of American Society for Equality in Dress beginning the transgender rights movement

1953 - First publication of One Magazine appeared
1953 - President Dwight Eisenhower bans homosexuals from federal jobs, says they are a security risk

1955 - Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian organization, forms
1956 - Daughters of Bilitis publish first issue of The Ladder
1956 - James Baldwin publishes Giovanni's Room, containing gay and bisexual subject matter

1957 – Under new government restrictions, Frank Kameny is fired from his government job for being gay

1957 - Kinsey Report revealed that 10% of population is predominantly homosexual

1958 - Gold Coast, first gay leather bar, opens in Chicago

1960 - New York City police begin systematic crackdown on gay bars
1960 - April Ashley undergoes sex reassignment surgery in Great Britain

1960 - Nancy Ledins (born William Griglak) comes out as first openly transgender ordained Catholic priest

1961 – Frank Kameny, nicknamed the Grandfather of Gay Rights, launches one of the first gay/lesbian protests

1961 - First US television documentary about homosexuality aired by local station in California

1961 - Jose Sarria is first openly gay person to run for public office in US (San Francisco)

1961 - Illinois becomes first state to decriminalize homosexual acts

1962 - Illinois becomes first state to remove sodomy laws from criminal code

1962 - Janus Society established in Philadelphia

1963 - East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) formed



1964 - Drum, LGBTQ interest magazine established by Janus Society, began publishing

1964 - San Franciscan Society for Individual Rights (SIR) formed

1964 - Lynn Conway, transwoman computer scientist and engineer, hired by IBM Research to join Advanced Computing Systems team

1965 - Barbara Gittings starts first picket lines for gay/lesbian protest movement at Independence Hall, Philadelphia

1965 - Vanguard LGBTQ youth organization becomes first gay liberation group in US (San Francisco)

1966 - Compton's Cafeteria Riot occurred in Tenderloin district of San Francisco

1966 - Time Magazine publishes anti-gay article, "The Homosexual in America"

1966 - CBS TV airs "The Homosexuals" documentary

1967 - Advocate Magazine founded

1967 - Sexual Offences Act decriminalizes sex between two men, including "in private"

1967 - Portrait of Jason film is released

1967 - Craig Rodwell opens Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, first bookstore devoted to gay and lesbian authors

1968 - Metropolitan Community Church (with special LGBTQ ministry) founded by Troy Perry in Los Angeles

1969 - Stonewall Riots in New York City
1969 - Rev. James Lewis Stoll, a Unitarian Universalist Minister, becomes first ordained minister to come out as gay

1970 - First Gay Liberation March in New York City (Also in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles)

1970 - Christopher Street Liberation March

1970 - Chicago Gay Rally held

1970 - Boys in the Band film is released

1970 - Gay Activists Alliance of New York selects Greek letter lambda as a gay symbol

1970 - Large crowd participates in Gay Pride Parade in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston

1970 - Lavender Menace, group of radical lesbian feminists, advocate for lesbian issues at Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City



1971 - Lambda Legal organization started

1971 - University of Michigan becomes first college in US to establish an LGBTQ office

1971 - Betty Berzon becomes first psychotherapist in US to publicly come out as gay

1971 - Frank Kameny becomes first openly gay candidate to run for US Congress

1971 - Nightride, by Lee Barton, becomes first off-Broadway play to discuss a romantic gay relationship

1972 - PFLAG founded by Jeanne Manford

1972 - Jim Foster becomes first openly gay delegate to address a major party national convention (Democratic, Miami)

1972 - Madeline Davis becomes first openly lesbian delegate to address a major party national convention (Democratic, Miami)

1972 - William Johnson becomes first only gay person ordained in a mainline Protestant denomination (United Church of Christ)

1972 - That Certain Summer aired on ABC TV, first TV show to sensitively explore homosexuality

1972 - Beth Chayim Chadashim founded as first LGBTQ synagogue in the world

1973 - American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from list of mental disorders 

1973 - French play La Cage Aux Folles by Jean Poiret is released

1973 - Lavender Country releases first known gay-themed country music album

1974 - Society of Janus, BDSM support and educational group, formed in San Francisco

1974 - Gay activists in Boston choose purple rhinoceros as a symbol of the gay movement

1975 - Rocky Horror Picture Show film is released

1975 - Tennis player Renee Richards undergoes gender reassignment surgery

1975 - Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich discharged from US Air Force for being gay
1976 - Renee Richards banned from competing in Women's US Open due to "women-born-women" rule

1976 - Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin, appears in San Francisco Chronicle

1976 - Tom Gallagher becomes first US Foreign Service officer to come out as gay

1977 - Anne Holmes becomes first openly lesbian minister ordained by United Church of Christ

1977 - Ellen Barrett becomes first openly lesbian priest ordained by US Episcopal Church (New York)

1977 - Billy Crystal plays openly-gay character on Soap television series

1977 - Conservative Christian activist Anita Bryant opposes Miami-Dade County amendment making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation; Her campaign led to the repeal of the law


Brief History of Queer Political Action

Fight for LGBTQ Rights Throughout History

Video Lesson: Living History of the LGBTQ Movement

Gay History Quiz

Advocate Mag: Champions of Pride 2019

Making History: The Homophile Movement


1978 - Briggs Initiative fails to pass in California; It would have banned homosexuals from teaching in public schools

1978 - Openly gay activist Harvey Milk is elected to San Francisco Board of Supervisors and 20 days later is murdered by Supervisor Dan White

1978 - Rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, first used as a symbol of gay pride

1978 - Village People top the pop music charts with YMCA, Macho Man, and In the Navy

1978 - Allen Bennett becomes first openly gay rabbi in US

1978 - San Francisco becomes first US city to recruit gay police officers (350 applications submitted)

1979 - California Supreme court rules against LGBTQ discrimination from public utility companies
1979 -100,000 attend first National Gay Rights March in Washington DC

1979 - Sisters (Order) of Perpetual Indulgence, drag  performance activist organization, formed in San Francisco

1979 - Stephen Lachs becomes first openly gay judge appointed in US (Los Angeles)

1980 - Human Rights Campaign founded

1981 - Tennis athlete Billie Jean King comes out as a lesbian

1981 - First report of what is now called AIDS
1981 - Wisconsin passes first gay rights bill
1981 - Tennis athlete Martina Navratilova comes out as a lesbian

1981 - Randy Shilts becomes first openly gay reporter with gay-themed content in mainstream press (San Francisco Chronicle)

1982 - First Gay Games
1982 - Center for Disease Control investigates what is being called a "Gay Plague"
1982 - Boy George and Culture Club top pop music charts with Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, I'll Tumble 4 Ya, Church of the Poison Mind, and Karma Chameleon


1983 - Rep Gerry Studds, D-Mass, becomes first member of US Congress to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality

1983 - Openly gay writer Tennessee Williams dies

1983 - Life Magazine publishes story, "The Double Closet," about LGBTQ families

1983 - The American musical version of La Cage Aux Folles, by Harvey Fierstein, premieres on Broadway

1984 - Federal officials announce discovery of first probable cause of AIDS
1984 - The Wall Street Journal permits use of the word "gay"

1985 - GLAAD founded

1985 - First International Conference on AIDS held

1985 - Rock Hudson dies of AIDS
1986 - Reagan administration states that treatment of persons with AIDS was not a federal concern
1987 - AIDS Memorial Quilt unveiled

1987 - US Rep Barney Frank, D-Mass, becomes second member of Congress to state he is gay

1987 - March on Washington is largest gay rights demonstration ever
1987 - ACT-UP organization is formed
1988 - Musician Elton John comes out, saying that he is "comfortable being gay"

1988 - 10th Annual National Coalition of Black Lesbians & Gays takes place

1989 - Actor Richard Chamberlain is outed as gay

1989 - Longtime Companion film is released, starring Campbell Scott, Patrick Cassidy, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey



The Homophile Movement

Billy Porter: Brief History of Queer Political Action

Important LGBTQ Moments in US History

History of Lesbian Fashion

Stonewall Forever: Past, Present, and Future Pride

Info: Archaic Language and Images

A Movement Caught Hold and Has Never Let Go

List: LGBTQ Firsts by Year

APA: History of LGBTQ Social Movements


1990 - President George H. Bush signs National Hate Crimes Act, the first to include gays
1990 - Militant group Queer Nation founded

1990 - AIDS Documentary wins Oscar
1990 - Gay men and Lesbians accepted as rabbis at 101st Annual Conference of American Rabbis
1990 - Gay Games III held in Vancouver
1990 - Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement collection displayed at Smithsonian
1991 - Amnesty International adopted jailed gay men and lesbians as prisoners of conscience
1991 - An appeals court recognized a homosexuals partner's rights as tantamount to those of a spouse
1991 - First television kiss between a same sex couple (two women on LA Law)

1992 - AIDS Quilt was unfolded in its entirety on the Capitol Mall
1992 - University of Iowa extended health benefits to domestic partners of its gay and lesbian employees
1992 - First Dyke March (Washington DC)

1992 - Canada allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military
1992 - Massachusetts Governor Weld created Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth
1992 - President Bill Clinton is first president to recognize gay and lesbian rights

1992 - Singer KD Lang comes out as a lesbian


1993 - Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is instituted for US military

1993 - 21 year old trans person Brandon Teena is raped and murdered

1993 - Grammy Awards ceremony features many openly gay and lesbian performers
1993 - Strong genetic component to homosexuality found in study

1993 – Tony Kushner wins Pulitzer Prize for his play Angels in America

1993 – Philadelphia film is released, starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington

1993 - National March on Washington DC saw record breaking crowds

1993 - Roberta Achtenberg, openly lesbian, appointed Asst Secretary of Fair Housing & Equal Oppty

1994 - Olympic diver Greg Louganis comes out as gay

1994 - Rep Steve Gunderson (R-Wis) is first openly gay republican in congress

1994 - Gay Games IV took place in New York City

1994 - Deborah Batts is first openly gay federal judge

1995 - President Clinton signs executive order forbidding denial of security clearances on basis of sexual orientation

1996 - Rep Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz) is second openly gay republican in congress

1996 - Rent musical premieres on Broadway

1997 – Ellen DeGeneres appears on the Oprah Wynfrey Show and comes out as a lesbian

1998 - President Clinton signs Defense of Marriage Act, denying federal benefits to same-sex spouses

1998 – Will & Grace TV show premieres

1998 - University of Wyoming gay college student Matthew Shepherd is killed

1998 - Miami-Dade County reinstates human rights protection for gays and lesbians, reversing Anita Bryant's earlier efforts

1998 - Torch Song Trilogy film is released

1999 - Rep Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) is first out lesbian US Representative when elected



Brief History of Queer Political Action

List: LGBTQ Firsts by Year

Fight for LGBTQ Rights Throughout History

Video: Overview of 20th Century LGBTQ History

American Park Service Report: LGBTQ Heritage Initiative

Gay History Quiz

Advocate Mag: Champions of Pride 2019


2000 - Vermont becomes first state to legalize civil unions between gay and lesbian couples
2000 - President Clinton declares June as Gay Pride Month

2001 - Netherlands becomes first country to legalize same-sex marriage

2002 - Transgender Law Center founded

2002 - David Cicilline is first openly gay mayor of US state capital, Providence RI

2002 - Laramie Project launched

2002 – Rosie O’Donnell comes out as a lesbian on The View television show

2003 - Gene Robinson becomes first openly gay Episcopal bishop

2003 - Belgium legalizes same-sex marriage

2003 - Angels in America film is released, starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker

2003 - National Black Justice Coalition founded

2003 - Supreme Court invalidates all remaining anti-sodomy laws in its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas

2003 – Queer Eye for the Straight Guy TV show premieres

2004 - US Senate defeats measure to create constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual

2004 - 11 openly gay and lesbian athletes at Olympic Games in Athens

2004 - Massachusetts becomes first US state to legalize same-sex marriage

2004 - First same-sex wedding takes place in United States in Cambridge City Hall, Massachusetts

2004 - Miss International Queen Pageant forms for transgender contestants

2005 - Canada and Spain legalize same-sex marriage

2005 - Deirdre Downs, from Alabama, becomes first openly gay Miss America pageant titleholder

2005 - Brokeback Mountain, film about gay cowboys, released in theaters



2006 - Brokeback Mountain wins 3 Academy Awards and 5 nominations

2006 - Patricia Todd is first openly gay legislator in Alabama (House seat representing Birmingham)

2006 - South Africa legalizes same-sex marriage

2008 – Milk, film about life of Harvey Milk, is released, starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco

2008 - 10 openly gay and lesbian athletes at Olympic Games in Beijing

2008 - Connecticut legalizes same-sex marriage

2009 - Chastity Bono (dn), child of Sonny & Cher, transitions from female to male to become Chaz Bono

2008 - Rachel Maddow Show premieres on MSNBC Television

2009 - Annise Parker becomes mayor of Houston, largest US city with lesbian mayor

2009 - Norway and Sweden legalize same-sex marriage

2009 - Iowa and Vermont legalize same-sex marriage

2010 - Repeal of US Military's Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy
2010 - Argentina, Iceland, and Portugal legalize same-sex marriage

2010 - It Gets Better campaign launched

2010 - New Hampshire and Washington DC legalize same-sex marriage

2011 - New York legalizes same-sex marriage

2011 - California mandates LGBTQ curriculum in public schools


How Harvey Milk Changed the Gay Rights Movement

Important LGBTQ Moments in US History

Info: Archaic Language and Images

Billy Porter: Brief History of Queer Political Action

A Movement Caught Hold and Has Never Let Go

APA: History of LGBTQ Social Movements



2012 - Sen Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) is first out lesbian senator

2012 - President Obama announces support for same-sex marriage rights
2012 - Seven LGBTQ candidates win elections in the US Senate and House

2012 - Astronaut Sally Ride dies and posthumously comes out as lesbian

2012 - Tammy Smith first is first out lesbian brigadier general in US Army

2012 - Kylar Bodus is first transgender person to testify at US Senate hearing

2012 - 21 openly gay and lesbian athletes at Olympic Games in London

2012 - Denmark legalizes same-sex marriage

2012 - Punk rocker Laura Jane Grace comes out as transgender

2012 - Washington and Maine legalize same-sex marriage

2013 - US Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8
2013 - Jason Collins become first openly gay NBA athlete
2013 - Queen Elizabeth II pardons Alan Turing for 1952 homosexuality conviction

2013 - Laverne Cox, MTF transgender person, stars in Orange is the New Black television show

2013 - Brazil, England, France, New Zealand, and Uruguay legalize same-sex marriage

2013 - Maryland, California, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Hawaii legalize same-sex marriage

2013 - New Jersey and California ban reparative therapy





2014 - Transwoman Laverne Cox appears on cover of Time Magazine

2014 - Michael Sam becomes first openly gay NFL athlete
2014 - BP Oil Co CEO Lord John Browne comes out as gay

2014 - Martina Navratilova proposes to longtime girlfriend Julia Lemigova at US Open and they marry later the same year

2014 - Openly gay and lesbian athletes at Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia

2014 - Facebook offers 56 different gender options for its users

2014 - United Kingdom and Scotland legalize same-sex marriage

2014 - US Post Office issues Harvey Milk stamp
2014 - Boy Scouts end anti-gay policy and allow gay youth to join
2014 - Apple CEO Tim Cook announces publicly that he is gay

2014 - Ed Murray elected mayor of Seattle, largest US city with gay male mayor

2014 - Oregon, Pennsylvania Illinois, Oklahoma, Virginia, Utah, Indiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, and South Carolina legalize same-sex marriage

2015 - Florida and Alabama legalize same-sex marriage 

2015 - US Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage legal in United States
2015 - Bruce Jenner (dn) undergoes gender reassignment surgery and becomes Caitlyn Jenner

2015 - Luxemburg and Ireland legalize same-sex marriage

2015 - Oregon and Washington DC ban reparative therapy

2016 - Gallup Poll reports that LGBTQ population is 4.6%, not 10% as previously estimated

2016 - Sen Harris Wofford announces plans to marry a man and becomes first male US Senator to come out

2016 - Eric Fanning is first out gay man appointed US Secretary of Army

2016 - Sarah McBride, MTF transgender person, addresses Democratic National Convention

2016 - Mass shooting at gay bar in Orlando, Florida

2016 - Many openly gay and lesbian athletes at Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2016 - Greenland and Colombia legalize same-sex marriage

2016 - Illinois and Vermont ban reparative therapy



2017 - Donald Trump is elected President, threatening to impede LGBTQ rights

2017 - Ines Rau is first transgender Playboy model

2017 - Finland, Malta, Germany, and Australia legalize same-sex marriage

2017 - Transwoman Danica Roem elected to public office in Virginia

2017 - New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Nevada ban reparative therapy

2018 - Pentagon confirms that first transgender person has signed a contract to join US military

2018 - India decriminalizes homosexuality

2018 - Angela Ponce is first transgender person to compete in Miss Universe pageant

2018 - Minnesota, Oregon, California, Colorado, Maine, and DC issue non-binary driver's licenses

2018 - New York adds third gender option to birth certificates

2018 - Record number of LGBTQ candidates run for and are elected to US Congress

2018 - Democratic US Rep Jared Polis wins Colorado governor's race, becoming nation's first openly gay man to be elected governor

2018 - Sharice Davids (Kan-Dem) is first Native American lesbian elected to Congress

2018 - Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, and Maryland ban reparative therapy

2019 - Large number of LGBTQ-themed movies nominated at Academy Awards

2019 - Billy Porter becomes the first openly gay black man to win Emmy for best lead actor in a drama series
2018 - Daniela Vega becomes first openly transgender presenter in Academy Awards history

2019 - Lori Lightfoot is first gay black female to become mayor of Chicago

2019 - President Trump bans transgender troops from the US military

2019 - Indya Moore becomes first trans cover model for Elle Magazine

2019 - Taiwan and Austria legalize same-sex marriage

2019 - New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Colorado ban reparative therapy

2019 - Record number of cases of violence to and murder of transgender people

2019 - Pete Buttigeig becomes first US presidential candidate who is openly gay

2019 - 50th anniversary of Stonewall Riots is commemorated worldwide with unprecedented coverage

2019 - Valentina Sampaio becomes first openly transgender model for Victoria's Secret

2019 - New Jersey, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois mandate LGBTQ curriculum in public schools

2020 - Pete Buttigieg, first out gay presidential candidate, wins Iowa Caucus

2020 - State Park in Brooklyn is renamed to honor Stonewall icon Marsha P. Johnson

2020 - Many conservative evangelical religious groups blame coronavirus epidemic on LGBTQ people


How Stonewall Riots Sparked a Movement

Video: Overview of 20th Century LGBTQ History

Book Riot: Books About LGBTQ History

Important LGBTQ Moments in US History

Wanda Sykes: Overview of LGBTQ History

Brief History of Queer Political Action

Worldwide History of LGBTQ Rights | 1790-Present

A Movement Caught Hold and Has Never Let Go

Info: Archaic Language and Images

Video Lesson: Living History of the LGBTQ Movement

Vintage Photos of LGBTQ Couples


Decades of Coming Out

Coming Out in the 1950s

Coming Out in the 1960s

Coming Out in the 1970s

Coming Out in the 1980s


LGBTQ Historical Figures Born Before 1900


1891-1964 - Cole Porter, American Composer and Songwriter

1882-1941 - Virginia Woolf, British Novelist and Essayist

1879-1970 - EM Forster, British Novelist

1877-1967 - Alice B. Toklas, Writer

1874-1946 - Gertrude Stein, Writer, Novelist, Poet

1873-1947 - Willa Cather, American Novelist

1854-1900 - Oscar Wilde, Irish Playwright and Poet

1840-1893 - Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Russian Composer

1830-1886 - Emily Dikinson, American Poet

1825-1895 - Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, Father of LGBTQ Movement

1819-1892 - Walt Whitman, American Poet

1788-1824 - Lord Byron - British Poet

1712-1786 - Frederick the Great, King of Prussia

1672-1725 - Peter the Great, Russian Czar

1564-1593 - Christopher Marlowe, English Playwright
1561-1626 - Sir Francis Bacon, British Philosopher and Scientist

1475-1564 - Michelangelo, Italian Artist
1452-1519 - Leonardo Da Vinci, Italian Artist and Scientist



LGBTQ Historical Figures in Ancient Times


76-138 CE - Hadrian, Roman Emperor

70-17 BCE - Virgil, Roman Poet

356-323 BCE - Alexander the Great, Macedonian Ruler

384-322 BCE - Aristotle, Greek Philosopher

469-399 BCE - Socrates, Greek Philosopher

427-347 BCE - Plato, Greek Philosopher

620-560 BCE - Sappho, Greek Poet

1010-961 BCE - David, King of Israel


LGBTQ Historical Overview

Fight for LGBTQ Rights Throughout History

Timeline: LGBTQ History in the United States

Video List: Famous LGBTQ Folk

Stonewall Forever: Past, Present, and Future Pride

Gay History Quiz

Gay Kings and Queens of Europe



Historical Locations

Independence Hall, Philadelphia | Gay and Lesbian Protest Movement 1965...
Activists led by Barbara Gittings started some of the first picket lines here. These protests continued on and off until 1969. Gittings went on to run the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the American Library Association for 15 years.

The Stonewall Inn, New York City | Birthplace of Modern Gay Rights Movement 1969...
For the first time, a group of gay men and drag queens fought back against police during a raid on this small bar in Greenwich Village, on Christopher Street. The place is now a national historic landmark.

Castro Street, San Francisco | Mecca for LGBTQ Community Since 1970s ...
When it comes to historic landmarks, Castro Street (and Castro District) was an oasis of hopefulness. Home to the first openly gay elected official Harvey Milk and the legendary Castro Theater, this urban location remains iconic to the LGBTQ community.

Cambridge City Hall, Massachusetts | Site of First Same-Sex Marriage in US History 2004...
In the years following this event, attempts by religious groups in the area to ban it have been stifled and many more states have joined Massachusetts. In 2015, the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal nationwide.


Stonewall Forever: Past, Present, and Future Pride

Wikipedia: Stonewall Riots (New York)

Video: Story of Stone Wall Inn and Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Riots: Beginning of the LGBTQ Movement

How Harvey Milk Changed the Gay Rights Movement

Gay Jesters Who Inspired LGBTQ Activism in the 1950s

How Stonewall Riots Sparked a Movement

Brief History of Queer Political Action

Things You Missed in History: What Was the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot?

Wikipedia: Compton’s Cafeteria Riot (San Francisco)

Before the Riot at Stonewall, There Was a Sit In at Dewey's


Stonewall Riots

June 28, 1969

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States.

Gay Americans in the 1950s and 1960s faced an anti-gay legal system. Early homophile groups in the US sought to prove that gay people could be assimilated into society, and they favored non-confrontational education for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. The last years of the 1960s, however, were very contentious, as many social movements were active, including the African American Civil Rights Movement, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and antiwar demonstrations. These influences, along with the liberal environment of Greenwich Village, served as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. At the time, the Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn. They attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, race, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the US and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.


Stonewall Forever: Past, Present, and Future Pride

Info: Famous LGBTQ People

Wikipedia: Stonewall Riots (New York)

Video: Story of Stonewall Inn and Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Riots: Beginning of the LGBTQ Movement

Info: Archaic Language and Images

How Stonewall Riots Sparked a Movement




The Homophile Movement

1950s - 1960s

In 1950, Harry Hay formed the Mattachine Society in New York and Washington DC. Other organizations such as One Incorporated (formed in 1952) and the Daughters of Bilitis (formed in 1955 in NY) soon followed. By 1954, the monthly sales of One Magazine peaked at 16,000. In 1956, the Daughters of Bilitis began publishing The Ladder. Homophile organizations elsewhere included Arcadie (1954) in France and the British Homosexual Law Reform Society (founded 1958).

By the mid-1960s, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the United States were forming more visible communities, and this was reflected in the political strategies of American homophile groups. From the mid-1960s, they engaged in picketing and sit-ins, identifying themselves in public space for the first time. The Janus Society formed in 1962 in Philadelphia.  Formed in 1964, the San Franciscan Society for Individual Rights (SIR) had a new openness and a more participatory democratic structure. SIR was focused on building community, and sponsored drag shows, dinners, bridge clubs, bowling leagues, softball games, field trips, art classes and meditation groups. In 1966, SIR opened the nation's first gay and lesbian community center, and by 1968 they had over 1000 members, making them the largest homophile organization in the country. The world's first gay bookstore had opened in New York the year before. A 1965 gay picket held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, according to some historians, marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Meanwhile, in San Francisco in 1966, transgender street prostitutes in the poor neighborhood of Tenderloin rioted against police harassment at a popular all-night restaurant, Gene Compton's Cafeteria. These and other activities of public resistance to oppression lead to a feeling of Gay Liberation that was soon to give a name to a new movement.

In 1963, homophile organizations in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC joined together to form East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) to more closely coordinate their activities. The success of ECHO inspired other homophile groups across the country to explore the idea of forming a national homophile umbrella group. This was done with the formation in 1966 of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO). NACHO held annual conferences, helped start dozens of local gay groups across the country and issued position papers on a variety of LGBTQ-related issues. It organized national demonstrations, including a May 1966 action against military discrimination that included the country's first gay motorcade. Through its legal defense fund, NACHO challenged anti-gay laws and regulations ranging from immigration issues and military service to the legality of serving alcohol to homosexuals. NACHO disbanded after a contentious 1970 conference at which older members and younger members, radicalized in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots, clashed. That convention became the battle that ended the homophile movement.


Homophile Movement

Making History: The Homophile Movement

One Incorporated

Out History: Homophile Movement

Cornell Library: Homophile Movement


Lavender Scare



The lavender scare refers to a witch hunt and the mass firings of homosexual people in the 1950s from the United States government. It contributed to and paralleled the anti-communist campaign known as McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Gay men and lesbians were said to be security risks and communist sympathizers, which led to the call to remove them from federal employment.


Former US Senator Alan Simpson has written: "The so-called 'Red Scare' has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element and one that harmed far more people was the witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals."



In 1950, the same year that Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed 205 communists were working in the State Department, Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy said that the State Department had allowed 91 homosexuals to resign. On April 19, 1950, the Republican National Chairman Guy George Gabrielson said that "sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years" were "perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists.” The danger was not solely because they were gay. The homosexuals were considered to be more susceptible to blackmail and thus were labeled as security risks. McCarthy hired Roy Cohn (who would later die of AIDS and was accused of being a closeted homosexual) as chief counsel of his Congressional subcommittee. Together, McCarthy and Cohn (with the enthusiastic support of the FBI head, J. Edgar Hoover) were responsible for the firing of scores of gay men and women from government employment and strong-armed many opponents into silence using rumors of their homosexuality. In 1953, during the final months of the Truman administration, the State Department reported that it had fired 425 employees for allegations of homosexuality.



McCarthy often used accusations of homosexuality as a smear tactic in his anti-communist crusade, often combining the Red Scare with the Lavender Scare. On one occasion, he went so far as to announce to reporters, "If you want to be against McCarthy, boys, you've got to be either a Communist or a cocksucker." At least one recent history has argued that, in linking communism and homosexuality and psychological imbalance, McCarthy was employing guilt-by-association if evidence for communist activity was lacking.

In 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order which set security standards for federal employment and barred homosexuals from working in the federal government. The restrictions set in place were cause for hundreds of gay people to be forcibly outed and fired from the State Department. The executive order was also the cause for the firing of approximately 5,000 gay people from federal employment. Not only did the victims lose their jobs, but also they were forced out of the closet and thrust into the public eye as lesbian or gay.


It was not until 1973 that a federal judge ruled that a person's sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment, and not until 1975 that the US Civil Service Commission announced that they would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case by case basis. Eisenhower’s executive order stayed partly in effect until 1995 when President Bill Clinton rescinded the order.


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Hero: Frank Kameny



Frank Kameny was an American gay rights activist. He has been referred to as "one of the most significant figures" in the gay rights movement and “the first and most influential members” of the gay rights movement. He is sometimes called the “grandfather of the gay rights movement.”


In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the US Army's Army Map Service in Washington, DC because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin "a Herculean struggle with the American establishment" that would "spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s."



Kameny formally appealed his firing by the US Civil Service Commission due to homosexuality. Although unsuccessful, the proceeding was notable as the first known civil rights claim based on sexual orientation pursued in a US court.


In 1961 Kameny and Jack Nichols, fellow co-founder of the Washington, DC branch of the Mattachine Society, launched some of the earliest public protests by gays and lesbians with a picket line at the White House on April 17, 1965. In coalition with New York's Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, the picketing expanded to target the United Nations, the Pentagon, the US Civil Service Commission, and Philadelphia's Independence Hall for what became known as the Annual Reminder for gay rights. Kameny also wrote to President Kennedy asking him to change the rules on homosexuals being purged from the government.



In 1963, Kameny and Mattachine launched a campaign to overturn DC sodomy laws. He personally drafted a bill that finally passed in 1993. He also worked with Barbara Gittings to remove the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.


In 1971, Kameny became the first openly gay candidate for US Congress when he ran in the District of Columbia's first election for a non-voting Congressional delegate. Following his defeat by Democrat Walter Fauntroy, Kameny and his campaign organization created the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Washington, DC, an organization which continues to lobby government and press the case for equal rights.


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Homophobe: Anita Bryant



Anita Bryant was a singer, beauty queen, and celebrity spokesperson who became best known for her work in favor of bigotry against gays and lesbians. She was born and raised in Oklahoma by an extremely religious family. From early on she was a singer and she sang on stage at local fairgrounds. Eventually, she sang on radio and television.

Bryant won first prize on the Arthur Godfrey talent show and had her first minor hit song when she was 16 years old. At 18, she won the Miss Oklahoma beauty pageant, and she was second runner-up for Miss America. In 1959 and 1960, she had three million-selling singles. She eventually vanished from the pop charts, but released several albums of Christian music.


Projecting a wholesome, maternal image, Bryant plugged Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Holiday Inn, and Tupperware in assorted TV, billboard, and magazine ad campaigns. Her most famous celebrity endorsement deal began in 1968, when she sang an upbeat jingle in commercials for the Florida Citrus Commission, closing each ad with their tag line, "A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine."

By the mid-1970s, Bryant was also a celebrity spokesperson for Christ, singing Christian music and writing books offering inspirational advice. Her popular books contained strong Christian themes applied to parenting and cooking. She won the "Most Admired Woman in America" poll in Good Housekeeping.

Then, in 1977, Bryant became obsessed when Miami-Dade County added an amendment to its human rights ordinance, making it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment, loans, and public accommodations based on "affectional or sexual preference." Announcing, "I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before", she founded Save Our Children. As the group's name implies, Bryant's central (and ludicrous) argument was her fear that children would be molested or converted by gay perverts. "As a mother," she famously explained, "I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children, therefore, they must recruit our children."


Bryant's religious activism drew many followers, and within a year the law was repealed, making it legal again to fire workers, deny people housing, or refuse their business based on how and with whom consenting adults have sex. Celebrating her victory in a sound bite that aired nationwide, Bryant promised she would "seek help and change for homosexuals, whose sick and sad values belie the word 'gay' which they pathetically use to cover their unhappy lives."

Even after the local amendment was repealed, Bryant fanned the flames with speaking tours that made her a national spokesperson against "homosexual rights." She was the star attraction at rallies that led to the repeal of gay rights in numerous cities, and she went to California to support the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which failed, but would have banned homosexuals or anyone advocating the "gay lifestyle" from teaching in public schools. "I don't hate the homosexuals," she wrote in a fundraising letter. "But as a mother, I must protect my children from their evil influence."

Not surprisingly, Bryant's outspoken activism inspired the gay rights movement like nothing since Stonewall. The gay community referred to her as "Hurricane Anita." The response included pickets, petitions, and a boycott of Florida orange juice, which led the Citrus Commission to let her endorsement contract lapse.

Gay bars all over North America stopped serving screwdrivers and replaced them with the "Anita Bryant Cocktail", which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.

By this time, gay activists ensured that the boycott on Florida orange juice had become more prominent and it was supported by many celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, Dick Clark, Vincent Price, John Waters, Carroll O'Connor, Linda Lavin, Mary Tyler Moore, Charles Schulz, Billie Jean King, and Jane Fonda.

She was one of the first political figures to have a pie thrown in her face in protest to her activism ("At least it was a fruit pie," she said). Her record and book sales declined, she sold her 33-room mansion, and her marriage ended in divorce. She eventually declared bankruptcy.

In 1998, Miami-Dade County reinstated human rights protections for gays and lesbians. Five years later, the Christian Coalition backed a county-wide effort to repeal the law, but lost.

To this day, the gay community continues to regard Bryant's name as synonymous with bigotry and homophobia.


NNDB: Anita Bryant Profile

NNDB: Homophobia List

Wikipedia: Anita Bryant Biography



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