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Gay Rights Timeline


1924 " Society for Human Rights "

The Society for Human Rights in Chicago becomes the country's earliest known gay rights organization.


1944 " Alfred Kinsey "

Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, revealing to the public that homosexuality is far more widespread than was commonly believed.


1951 " Mattachine Society "

The Mattachine Society, the first national gay rights organization, is formed by Harry Hay, considered by many to be the founder of the gay rights movement.


1956 " Daughters of Bilitis "

The Daughters of Bilitis, a pioneering national lesbian organization, is founded.


1962 " First State to Decrminalize "

Illinois becomes the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.


1969 " Stonewall Riots "

The Stonewall riots transform the gay rights movement from one limited to a small number of activists into a widespread protest for equal rights and acceptance. Patrons of a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, fight back during a police raid on June 27, sparking three days of riots.


1973 " APA Removes Homosexuality as Mental Illness "

The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders.


1982 " Wisconsin Outlaws Discrimination "

Wisconsin becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


1993 " Don't Ask, Don't Tell "

The “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy is instituted for the U.S. military, permitting gays to serve in the military but banning homosexual activity. President Clinton's original intention to revoke the prohibition against gays in the military was met with stiff opposition; this compromise, which has led to the discharge of thousands of men and women in the armed forces, was the result.


1996 " Romer Verses Evans "

May 20, 1996 In Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court strikes down Colorado's Amendment 2, which denied gays and lesbians protections against discrimination, calling them “special rights.” According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, “We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These protections . . . constitute ordinary civil life in a free society.”


1996 " DOMA Signed "

September 21, 1996: President Bill Clinton signs into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denying federal recognition of same-sex marriages.


2000 " Vermont Recognizes Same-Sex Union "

Vermont becomes the first state in the country to legally recognize civil unions between gay or lesbian couples. The law states that these “couples would be entitled to the same benefits, privileges, and responsibilities as spouses.” It stops short of referring to same-sex unions as marriage, which the state defines as heterosexual.


2003 " Lawrence Verses Texas "

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.”


2003 " Massachusetts Supreme Court "

In November, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that barring gays and lesbians from marrying violates the state constitution. The Massachusetts Chief Justice concluded that to “deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage” to gay couples was unconstitutional because it denied “the dignity and equality of all individuals” and made them “second-class citizens.” Strong opposition followed the ruling.


2004 " Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage "

On May 17, same-sex marriages become legal in Massachusetts.


2005 " Connecticut Civil Unions "

Civil unions become legal in Connecticut in October.


2006 " New Jersey Civil Unions "

Civil unions become legal in New Jersey in December.


2007 " Workplace Rights "

In November, the House of Representatives approves a bill ensuring equal rights in the workplace for gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.


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