Marching Through the History of Gay Rights In America

The revolution and history of gay rights, the LGBT community, and its movement has always fascinated me since I was a teen. I first came to terms with my being bisexual at age 16 in 2001 and came out to my immediate family after my Freshman Year of College about 3 years later. With the era we are in now, I thought it prudent to examine just how quickly the cultural landscape has shifted in America regarding the LGBT community just in the past 20 years since 1994.

Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin Create the Kinsey Scale – 1948
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey interviewed a population and proceeded to introduce a 6 point scale ranging from Exclusively Heterosexual to Exclusively Homosexual. Fritz Klein and Michael Storms expanded on and created their own scales in addition to the Kinsey Scale. Michael Storm’s scale also included Asexuality in addition to the other sexual identities.

The American Psychiatric Association Deems Homosexuality a Mental Disorder – 1952
The APA considered and added homosexuality as a disease and mental disorder, transitioning it to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) where it remained until 1973. Despite being removed in 1973, the APA came up with a new term, ego-dystonic homosexuality, that stayed in the DSM from 1980 through 1986. This distinction weighted the psychological aspects of homosexuality as unwanted desires and interfering with wanted heterosexual relationships.

McCarthyism Takes Aim at Homosexuals – 1950 through 1956
During the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy took aim at people he considered Communists in association with the Communist Party in general. This also included homosexuals and led to a growing targeting of the homosexual community at large. Frequently sweeps were utilized to close down hangouts, names were openly outed in newspapers around the country, and largely led to the term “down low,” where somebody who is LGBT marries and lives a double life.

The Stonewall Riots – 1969
The riots at the Stonewall Inn, also known as Stonewall Riots, occurred in Greenwich Village in New York on June 28th, 1969. The Mafia had recently purchased the bar in 1966 and transformed it into a gay bar that was routinely checked on in the ensuing years. The members of the bar violently revolted against this police intrusion and ended up making the front page of various newspapers including The New York Times and New York Post. David Carter’s book, “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,” is a great read covering the time frame of the riots as well as the prelude and aftermaths.

The First Gay Pride Parade – June, 1970
The first march was to commemorate the events of the Stonewall Riot nearly a year earlier but eventually morphed into what is is known today as a result of multiple cities hosting their own marches throughout the 1970s.

The AIDS Epidemic – 1980s
In the 1980s came a disease largely ignored nationally by Ronald Reagan that defined the Baby Boomers along with Generation X. The disease was initially confined to the Homosexual community, wiping people out left and right as it ravaged (and continues to ravage) any that found themselves hit with it. Randy Shilts has a great book named And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition that covers the 1980s and the epidemic in deep detail.

Bill Clinton Signs Defense Of Marriage Act – September, 1996
The law became federal, essentially defining what a spouse was and its correlation to heterosexual marriages only. As a result, same sex couples were disavowed from marriage and any federal benefits were outlawed as well. President Clinton was forced to sign the bill into law after it passed the House of Representatives with enough votes to supplant a presidential veto. Almost immediately the lack of Federal benefits to same sex couples were exposed as early as 1997 by the General Accounting Office, “1,049 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor.” In June of 2013, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as being unconstitutional.

The Matthew Shepard Murder – October, 1998
For Generation Y, this moment was a watershed moment for a lot of LGBT youth growing up. Matthew was in a bar in Laramie, Wyoming when Aaron McKinney & Russell Henderson agreed to give him a ride home. He was savagely beaten and tied to a fence, found 18 hours later by a cyclist. His injuries were so extensive doctors could not operate on him and he was on life support for 5 days before passing away. Matthew’s death instantly paved the way for many states to expand on or include LGBT in their hate crime laws as a result. President Barack Obama signed The Matthew Shepard Act into law on October 28th, 2009.

Same Sex Marriages Arrives In Massachusetts – 2004
Massachusetts became the 1st state in the United States to not only practice but openly allow same sex marriage to happen in its state. Over the next decade came an unbelievable push that has not dissipated since in terms of states allowing same sex marriage or civil unions. As of March, 2014, the following states allow same sex marriage (18 in all): California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin also recognize same sex marriage as civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Pro Athletes Become Active and Out – 2014
Jason Collins has become the 1st active gay player in NBA History and pretty soon football draft prospect Michael Sam has come out and will be the first openly gay active player in NFL History.

Closing Thoughts
In less than a decade, the United States has seen an absolute whirlwind of social change and dramatic social evolution in relation to gay rights and the LGBT movement in general. I’m honored and excited about what the next decade could possibly bring and what possible evolutions stand before us.

Credit to for feature image


Written by David Hunter

David Hunter enjoys writing about wrestling, sports, music, and horror!

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