People who identify as LGBTQ+ have struggled with oppression for centuries. In fact, one infamous anti-homosexuality law was created during the reign of Henry VIII in the 1500’s, known as the Buggery Act. The Act outlawed homosexuality in Britain, making it punishable by death. After 200 years, the death penalty was abolished, though this was only a minor improvement. It was replaced with a minimum of 10 years imprisonment. The last known execution was 1835 but homosexuality wasn’t decriminalized until as recently as 1967, and it was only partially. It wasn’t until a few decades ago that homosexuality was no longer treated as a mental illness.
U.S. Congress issues the report entitled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government” is distributed to members of Congress after the federal government had covertly investigated employees’ sexual orientation. The report states that since homosexuality is a mental illness, homosexuals “constitute security risks” to the nation.
The Mattachine Society formed in Los Angeles, California by activist Harry Hay and is one of the first sustained gay rights groups in the United States. The Society focused on social acceptance and other support for homosexuals. Various branches formed in other cities. The organization continues today with different objectives.
Executive Order 10450 issued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower banning homosexuals from working for the federal government stating they are a security risk. This order stays in place until 1993 when President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress enact the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. In response to an unprovoked police raid on an early Saturday morning, over 400 people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight people protested their treatment and pushed the police away from the area. Some level of rioting continued over the next six nights, which closed the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Riots became a pivotal, defining moment for gay rights. Key people at the riots who went on to tell their stories were: Sylvia Rivera, Martha P. Johnson, Dick Leitsch, Seymore Pine and Craig Rodwell. Following this the Gay Liberation Front formed in New York advocating for sexual liberation for all people.
The first gay pride marches were held in multiple cities across the United States on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, including San Francisco and Los Angeles / West Hollywood.
AIDS Epidemic begins. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reported the first cases of a rare lung disease, which would be named AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) the following year. There were a total of 583, 298 U.S. men women and children who would die from AIDS through 2007.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared December 1 as the first World AIDS Day.
Missouri State University (formerly Southwest Missouri State) announced plans to produce Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart. Local opposition brought enormous pressure (and press) to bear to stop the production but MSU persisted, triggering protests the week before the play, and a fire at the home of a supporter on the night of the play.
The U.S. Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” that allowed gay and lesbian people to serve in the military. They would not be asked their sexual orientation during enlistment screening. If it was discovered or assumed that someone was homosexual, they were released from the military.
The US Supreme Court strikes down the “homosexual conduct” law, which decriminalizes same-sex sexual conduct, with their opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. The decision also reverses Bowers v. Hardwick, a 1986 US Supreme Court ruling that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law.
The U.S. Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” so that gay and lesbian people could serve openly in the military. One person present at the signing ceremony in the White House was Frank Kameny who had been released from military service in 1958 because of discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian people.
President Obama becomes the first sitting US President to publicly support the freedom for LGBTQ+ couples to marry.
Springfield, MO city council added sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing nondiscrimination ordinance, protecting against unequal treatment in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Obergefell v. Hodges (Supreme Court Decision). The Court voted 5-4 that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This decision mandated that states must allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Springfield, MO repeals protections against discrimination for the city’s gay, lesbian, and transgender citizens. The repeal comes after Governor Mike Pence signed a bill granting far-reaching freedoms for religious beliefs, protecting those who say their beliefs forbid them from serving same-sex individuals.
President Obama announces the designation of the first national monument to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) rights. The Stonewall National Monument will encompass Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the sites of the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
Secretary of Defense Carter announces that the Pentagon is lifting the ban on transgender people serving openly in the US military.
The US Department of Defense announces a six-month delay in allowing transgendered individuals to enlist in the United States military. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis writes that they “will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.” Approximately a month later, President Donald Trump announces via Twitter that the “United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”
The Trump administration announces a new policy that bans most transgender people from serving in military. After several court battles, the Supreme Court allows the ban to go into effect in January 2019.
The Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination. The landmark ruling extends protections to millions of workers nationwide and is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of former student, Gavin Grimm. in a more than four-year fight over restroom policies for transgender students. The ruling states that policies segregating transgender students from their peers is unconstitutional and violate federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education. The decision relies in part on the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2020, stating that discrimination against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.