The Evolution of Gay Rights

The Evolution of Gay Rights

While in the past it was only a dream for those who desperately needed them, nowadays gay people count with more rights that defend their social status and empower them to be front-runners in almost every aspect without so much of a backlash. Though none of these current benefits were simply granted or found in cereal boxes, they were hard fought by either exceptional people or movements.
Let´s take a look into some events that made gay rights evolve into what they are now.

The Very First Gay Movement – Henry Gerber

Henry GreberIn 1924, the Society for Human Rights led by Henry Gerber was the first gay organization to be registered in the U.S, inspired by Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee; they edited the first paper named Friendship and Freedom intended for American homosexuals.

Although the group was disbanded quickly due to the arrest of many of its members, it was deemed as the precursor for the now LGBT movement. This was the start of a long series of fights towards gay rights.

In 1951, Harry Hay would from the first national gay rights organization, The Mattachine Society, which will be deemed by many as the founder of the gay rights movement. This society, founded in Los Angeles, would also give vital support to the foundation of a lesbian-rights movement called The Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco, 1955.

The latter would also become a pioneering national lesbian organization that also disbanded after roughly 15 years, this time due to its members dividing towards either the gay movement or feminism. Both of these movements, Mattachine and Daughters, would fight for their own people´s rights, giving more and more ground for the slow liberation of its populace.

In 1962 a breakthrough in gay rights is seen in Illinois, becoming the first state to decriminalize homosexual act between consenting adults in private.

Gay Americans in 1950 and 60’s sought that society accepted and assimilated gay people, which was not an easy task since they faced an anti-gay legal system.

Stonewall Riots – ‘Spontaneous & Violent’

Then an important event takes place in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, which would spark the fire of gay liberation, the Stonewall riots. These spontaneous and violent riots start in response to the abuse by the police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.

The Stonewall riots would spread throughout the country, inspiring LGBT people to organize in support of gay rights in every major city of the United States. A year after the event, the first gay parades in U.S history took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders. Meanwhile in San Francisco, the gay rights activist Harvey Milk starts making a stand against Government involvement in personal sexual matters. He runs for City Supervisor, winning over the Castro district and receiving a lot of media attention thanks to his passionate speeches and media skills.

A Gay Rights Hero – Harvey Milk

henry milk

Henry Milk in StoneWall Riots

In 1976, Milk becomes the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States, though his time in office lasts only five weeks, Harvey doesn’t give up and co-founds the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club.

After a loss in the State Assembly race Harvey dedicates himself to become a Supervisor, and in 1978 he makes national news by being sworn as member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk initiates his term by supporting a civil rights bill that would forbid sexual orientation discrimination.

Harvey becomes a key element in the fight against John Briggs’ proposition 6, and with his stance, the Gay Pride marches in San Francisco and Los Angeles take a huge boost in attendance. Later on President Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Governor Jerry Brown speak out against Briggs proposition, giving it a final blow on November 7, which was rejected by more than a million votes.

Sadly, Harvey is murdered later on that year by Dan White, thus becoming a fallen icon in the long fight for gay rights in the U.S.

Gay Rights Enhancement – Coming With Time

Following that year, the biggest political gathering in support of the LGBT rights takes place in Washington, D.C. About 75.000 people attend the National March for Lesbian and Gay rights. Giving a firm and powerful stand in the U.S, letting everyone know just big the LGBT movement had grown so far, as did their rights.

Since that point on, a series of progressive breakthroughs are witnessed in the U.S giving more and more freedom to the gay community. Such as the Wisconsin´s abolishment of discrimination of sexual orientation, the “Don´t ask, don´t tell” policy that permitted gay, lesbians and bisexuals to serve in the military, but banning homosexual activity . Later on a huge March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi equal rights and Liberation was held, taking close to 1 million people participating in events throughout several art, history displays, outings, and workshops that led the event.

Same-Sex Unions – Going Legal

gay rights

During the 2000-2010’s decade, same-sex civil unions and marriages become legal cities including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. A bill is approved ensuring equal rights for gay, lesbians, and bisexuals in the workplace.

In 2009, Obama signs a referendum that allows same-sex partners of federal employees to receive benefits. It was a huge initiative by Obama that improved gay rights considerably.

2000 to 2010 decade was definite boost all around the world for gay rights. Countries all over the Western part of Europe and most the American continent started legalizing civil unions and condoning discrimination everywhere. Nevertheless, in the African and Asian continent it’s still a cause for life in prison or even death penalties, and in some other is a slight offense that is penalized but not heavily enforced, which means the fight is still far from finished.

Are LGTB Rights Enhanced Enough?

From 2010 on, same-sex marriage becomes legal in several states, including New York, which becomes the largest state to allow lesbian and gay couples to marry.

And more than a few countries accept same-sex marriage and give the gay and lesbian community a stand towards freedom of right and equal footing as the rest of the citizens.

Though the subject is far from over, we can see how Gay rights have evolved far from being only a dream of those persecuted and has become more and more a strong reality of the new world. I hope the day comes when announcing your orientation doesn´t inspire any more fear of rejection or worse punishments but becomes instead a reason for celebration and acknowledgment of those proud enough to call themselves gay.

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