LGBT Rights History: A Timeline

Ali Dade

The Society for Human Rights is founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago in December of 1924. This was the first gay rights organization recognized in the United States. It also produced the first American publication for the LGBT community at the time titled, “Friendship and Freedom.” Unfortunately, a few months after being created, the group ceased to exist due to the arrest of several society members. Even though its existence was short-lived, it has been recognized as a precursor to the modern LGBT rights movement.

The Stonewall riots occurred in the early hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, in New York City. The riots began after some protocol procedures were broken or ignored by multiple law enforcement professionals during a police raid. The riots continued on through the night of June 29. This incident is considered by many to be the first major protest on behalf of LGBT rights in history. This area was named a National Monument in in June 2016 by President Barack Obama, making it the first LGBT monument in history.

On June 27, 1970, to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, America’s first Gay Pride marches were held in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. The marches were then known and celebrated as “Gay Liberation Day.” The day was celebrated by gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people alike. All four marches ended with a dance for all participants. This event made it possible for current Pride parades to exist all over the country today.

Harvey Milk was elected as the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in November of 1977. He was elected as the city supervisor in San Fransisco. Milk was able to serve for nearly a year in office and was responsible for passing multiple gay rights ordinances, including an initiative forbidding the discrimination of homosexual school teachers, and a protection towards gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, Milk was assassinated by a former city supervisor named Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978. Milk’s actions while serving as a public official helped provide many opportunities for other LGBT officials to obtain offices.

In July of 1980, the democratic rules committee announced that during their National Convention in the following month, they would endorse the homosexual rights platform. On Aug. 11 to 14 of 1980, the Democratic Party then became the first and only major political party to state that it will not discriminate against homosexuals. Over 30 years later, Barack Obama would become the first U.S. president to announced his support for the LGBT community.

Vermont became the first state to introduce same-sex marriage in the form of a civil union in April 2000. A civil union provides many of the same protections as marriage does to straight couples. However, some federal protections were not available to those in a civil union including tax breaks and social security benefits. For those same-sex couples in a civil union, their marriage could not be recognized outside of the state.

Massachusetts became the first state to legally recognize a marriage between two same-sex people in May of 2004. This decision came as a result of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, noting that it was unconstitutional to allow only opposite-sex couples to marry in the state. On May 17, 2004 at 12:01 a.m., city officials opened City Hall in a celebratory fashion. That day, 262 same-sex couples obtained licenses, becoming the first same-sex couples legally married in the United States.

On Dec. 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the ‘“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010’, which then made it illegal to turn away open LGBT people from serving in the military. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was instituted on Feb. 28, 1994 by then-president Bill Clinton. The policy originally stated that a member of the LGBT community could only serve in the military if they kept their sexual orientation a secret.

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state-level bans on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional on the ground of Obergefell v. Hodges. This law made it possible for all 50 states to now allow same-sex marriages to be recognized on the state and federal levels. As of June 22, almost a year after its original passing, it is reported that nearly 125,000 same-sex marriages have occurred in the United States because of the passing of this law. President Barack Obama was known for saying that the ruling was “a victory for America.”

The 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting occurred at Pulse nightclub in the early morning hours of June 12. The shooting has since been labeled as a terrorist attack and hate crime against the LGBT community, as the Pulse was a gay nightclub. 29 year-old Omar Mateen was the man responsible for the 49 lives lost, and 53 wounded in the 3 hours he held club-goers hostage. He was shot and killed by the Orlando Police Department after holding hostages in the building for over three hours. It has been labeled as the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter, and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States History.