LGBT History: Where We Were and Where We’ve Come


LGBT rights in America have been argued since 1924 and before. It wasn’t even until 2015 when same sex couples could legally get married in all 50 states or until 2021 when people who are transgender could join the military. These rights have been argued and argued over and over, decisions being made and said decisions being repealed. Human rights being argued because they’re different and not “normal.” However, with all the struggle has come a better outcome than likely expected in 1924. 

December 10, 1924, Henry Gerber created the Society for Human rights,the first gay rights group. In their mission statement, they stated nothing specifically about homosexuality, though. They were surprised they weren’t investigated before completely becoming a non profit. They created a newsletter in the society called Friendship and Freedom. Some members were worried, however, and didn’t have it sent to their homes in fear of it being deemed “too obscene.” The society dismembered when Gerber was arrested. He was charged with obscenity but not convicted. After he lost his job,he re-enlisted in the army. He spent 17 years there before being honorably discharged. 

Things began to pick back up in 1950 with the Mattachine society. It was the first sustainable gay rights group. They aimed for equality and to “unify homosexuals isolated from their own kind.” They wanted to eliminate bigotry and educate people on homosexuality. The decrease in membership came when the founders left and new people stepped into leadership. It’s said this was the decrease because the new leaders took a non confrontational route with how they did things and that made people lose interest in the Mattachine Society. This didn’t do much for LGBT rights, especially for when in April, 1952 when the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. The Mattachine Society, however, didn’t fall out of existence. 

In 1958 came the One Inc v Olesen case. One was a magazine for the LGBT community. Olesen, a postmaster, deemed the magazine obscene and didn’t want to deliver it. The suit was filed by the U.S. Postal Service and FBI because of the “obscenity” in the magazine. This suit was a breaking point because the court ruled in favor of homosexuals. 

Upon the basis of homosexuals being “disorderly,” they were not allowed to drink in bars. Three men from the Mattachine Society had gone from one bar to the next. They eventually made it to Julius’, a tavern in New York, where they went up to the bartender and said they were homosexual and asked for a drink. They were promptly denied service and forced out. This is where they started their sip-in. The Commission of Human Rights got involved saying the bans against homosexuals having liquor at bars. The ban was lifted after homosexuals were no longer deemed “disorderly.”

June 28, 1969, there was a police raid at the Stonewall Inn and Greenwich Village where members of the LGBT community lived. The residents fought back, leading to a riot that lasted three days. This would come to be known as the Stonewall Riots. A year after on the exact date the riots started, thousands of LGBT members gathered in Central Park in New York and paraded. This would be known as the first pride parade and they did so annually. To add another victory to this pot, on December 15, 1973, homosexuality was removed as a form of mental illness. 

Victories didn’t last for forever though, because on June 7, 1977, a successful campaign called the “Save Our Children” was lead by Southern Baptist Anita Bryant to repeal gay rights in the Dade County in Florida. It ended with a repeal in the gay ordinance rights and wouldn’t be reinstated until over 20 years later. 

In 1991 a policy is placed in the military after men had been kicked out for being gay called “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” which entailed men in the military to be silent about their sexualities in the service so they wouldn’t get kicked out. Five years later, an act is implemented but this time not on the military but the United States as a whole. The Defense Marriage Act made it so same sex marriages didn’t have to be recognized by the state if they took place out of state. Another loss for the community being on November 8, 2008 when Prop 8 got the majority by California voters. Prop 8 made same sex marriage illegal in the state of California. This inspired the NOH8 in CA.

Losses wouldn’t stay for forever, on August 4, 2010 a San Francisco lawyer argued Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, this, however, was argued back by other lawyers. The proposition wouldn’t be fully repealed until 2015. However, on December 18 in 2010 the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was repealed.

This takes us to one fateful day on June 26, 2015. Gay mariage was made legal in all 50 states on that day. It wouldn’t be their last victory, however, because on April 12, 2019, it was made that people who were transgender could not join the military if they had medically transitioned. This was not repealed until January 25, 2021. 

The battle has been long, there will be more losses and victories to come, but the LGBT community will hold strong and fight those battles. 


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