1969: Stonewall Riots and the Beginning of the Modern Gay-Rights Movement
Enough is enough. On June 28, 1969, a group of gay men in downtown New York City rioted in a show of force against police harassment. The rallying point was the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village. The grievances were many: not just police harassment, but laws against displaying homosexual behavior in public. To commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, supporters held the first Gay Pride march in United States history. The pride parade is now an annual celebration in New York and several other cities around the U.S. Below is the trailer for the 2010 documentary Stonewall Uprising, which took a look at the events.
1977: Harvey Milk’s History-Making Election
In 1977 Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Deemed a visionary by many, Milk championed gay rights until his assassination in 1978. Even in death, Milk’s crusade has not been forgotten. Gus Van Sant chronicled his life in the 2008 film Milk, and the following year, President Obama awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay-rights movement.
1997: Life After Ellen
Ellen DeGeneres didn’t just come out of the closet once, she came out twice. In 1997 the actress revealed that she was gay in a groundbreaking cover story for Time magazine. Following an interview on Oprah, DeGeneres also revealed that the character she played on her sitcom, Ellen, also would be coming out of the closet. Although it was just 15 years ago, many credit DeGeneres for putting a face on the lesbian community and removing the stigma on homosexuality in mainstream culture.
1999: Bill Clinton Backs the Employee Non-Discrimination Act
Bill Clinton opposed gay marriage while in office and helped pass the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.” Many gay activists viewed the latter as an unacceptable compromise and have condemned Clinton’s overall record. That judgment may be an unfair one. Clinton also worked to pass laws banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in the work force, opposed anti-gay ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon, and issued the first Gay and Lesbian Pride Month proclamation. He’s also had some significant changes of heart. In this video, he talks to Anderson Cooper about how he came to support gay marriage.
2004: Gay Marriage Legalized in Massachusetts
It was the state that set the standard. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage. After the Supreme Judicial Court ruled it unconstitutional to allow only heterosexual marriages, Gov. Mitt Romney—yes, that Mitt Romney—ordered town clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Since the historic ruling, several other states have legalized gay marriage, including Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, as well as Washington D.C.
2011: Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
In a controversial move, President Obama repealed DADT on Sept. 20, 2011. “At every turn and at every crossroads in our past,” Obama said, “we know that gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much, to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.”
2012: Obama Endorses Gay Marriage
In a major policy shift, Obama revealed to ABC’s Robin Roberts that he supports gay marriage. “It is important for me to go ahead and confirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama said. The statement marked the first time a sitting president has thrown his support behind gay marriage and the end of Obama’s self-described “evolution” on the issue.’