Get Inspired

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
-Audre Lorde, poet

American Gay Rights Timeline

Get inspired by the great strides that have been made since the very first American gay rights organization came into being. Let us take inspiration from what has been accomplished thus far as we press forward, trusting that minds can be opened and public opinions changed.

The following is a timeline of significant accomplishments of the American gay rights movement:

1924 – Chicago gives birth the movement with the establishment of the Society for Human Rights, the first formally organized gay rights group in the country.

1948 – The public is shocked by Alfred Kinsey’s publication Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which made it clear that homosexuality was much more common than society had previously acknowledged.

1951 – Harry Hay founds the Mattachine Society, national gay rights organization.

1955 – The Daughters of Bilitis (lesbian rights group) is established in San Francisco.

1958 – The first two openly pro-gay plays, The Madness of Lady Bright and The Haunted Host are performed at Caffe Cino (Off-Off-Broadway.)

1962 – Homosexual acts between consenting adults (conducted in private settings) is decriminalized in Illinois.

1966 – The National Transsexual Counseling Unit, the very first formal American transgender rights group, is formed in San Francisco.

1969 – Gay men and women at the Stonewall Inn (Greenwich Village, NY, NY) resist arrest when police raided the bar, resulting in three whole days of riots, later named the Stonewall riots.

1973 – The APA (American Psychiatric Association) officially rules that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.

1973 – Harvey Milk, openly gay man, runs for the position of city supervisor in San Francisco.

1976 – Harvey Milk becomes the very first uncloseted gay city commissioner in America when Mayor George Moscone appoints him to the position. Moscone had to fire him just weeks later when Milk ran for the California State Assmebly (and lost by a narrow margin.)

1978 – Harvey Milk is elected as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and then sponsors a bill that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Moscone signs the bill into law. Milk then campaigned against and managed to defeat Proposition 6, which would have resulted in the immediate firing of all teachers or school employees that supported gay rights, had it passed. Both Milk and Moscone were assassinated in November of 1978.

1980 – The Democratic party took a stand at the Democratic National Convention, adding protection against discrimination against individuals for “sexual orientation” to their civil rights protection mandates.

1982 – Wisconsin state legislature passes a bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

1984 – Domestic partnership benefits are offers to employees of the city of Berkeley, California.

1993 – The U.S. military establishes the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

2000 – Civil unions between same-sex couples are finally legally recognized in Vermont, the first state to formally recognize these unions. (However, the state does not go as far as to call a civil union a marriage.)

2003 – Ruling in the case of Lawrence vs. Texas, the Supreme Court justices rule that U.S. sodomy laws are unconstitutional.

2004 – Same-sex marriage is legalized in the state of Massachusetts. Many states since this have approved same-sex marriage.

2007 – The House of Representatives passes a bill that specifically protects LGBT workplace rights.

2008 – Same-sex couples are legally afforded the opportunity to register as domestic partners, which affords them the same spousal rights as heterosexual couples in the state of Oregon.

2008 – Same-same marriage is approved in California, but is quickly revoked as Proposition 8 is passed.

2009 – President Obama repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

2010 – Tammy Baldwin wins the race against Tommy Thompson to be the first uncloseted gay woman elected to the Senate.

2012 – President Obama publically states that his official stance on gay marriage is that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

2013 – The Supreme Court rules that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Section 3 had limited the definition of marriage to “one man and one woman.”


It is our hope that we will soon be able to add to this timeline:

  • Same-sex couples can legally get married in every state in America.
  • Same-sex couples will receive all of the same federal and state benefits as heterosexual couples.
  • Church communities will universally embrace same-sex couples.
  • Conversion therapy is no longer practiced anywhere in the United States.


Join us in fighting for GBLT rights.

Contact writer Rachel Mork with your story and contribute to awareness of how damaging conversion therapy is.