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A History of Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States From 1610 To 2000

Year Event
1610 Virginia Colony passes first anti-sodomy law in America.
1786 Pennsylvania becomes the first of 13 states to drop the death penalty for sodomy.
1924 The first gay rights group in the United States, the Society for Human Rights, is founded in Chicago.
1950 U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy starts a massive nationwide hunt to expose Communists. He also focuses some effort on homosexuals, who, because of blackmailing opportunities, were considered to be security risks.
1951 Henry Hay, Bob Hull, and Chuck Rowland foudn the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles. The society is created to provide aid and comfort to gay men and lesbians and to educate the general public on gay issues.
1952 The McCarran-Walters Act bans "sexual deviates" from immigrating to the United States, a policy that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 says applies to lesbians and gay men.
1955 Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon found the first U.S. lesbian organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, in San Francisco.
1961 Illinois becomes the first state to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.
1967 The American Civil Liberties Union reverses its earlier position and declares its opposition to state sodomy laws.
1969 A police raid in a gay bar leads to the Stonewall riots of June 27 and 28 in New York City, marking the symbolic beginning of the gay rights movement in the United States
1971 The President's National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws recommends the repeal of all state sodomy laws.
1972 East Lansing, Michigan, becomes the first city in the United States to adopt a nondiscrimination hiring policy based on sexual orientation.
1972 The U.S. Supreme Court upholds right to refuse employment on grounds of homosexuality.
1973 The American Psychiatric Association drops homosexual behavior from its list of behavior disorders.
1974 Elaine Nobel of Massachusetts becomes the first openly gay person elected to a state legislature.
1976 The U.S. Supreme Court votes 6 - 3 to uphold the state of Virginia's sodomy laws.
1977 Ordinances prohibiting discrimination in hiring against gay men and lesbians are overturned in Dade County, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; Eugene, Oregon; and St. Paul, Minnesota.
1977 The state legislature of Oklahoma passes a law requiring the dismissal of gay and lesbian teachers and prohibiting the favorable mention of homosexual behavior in schools. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court votes 4 - 4 to invalidate the state law.
1978 Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay supervisor, and Mayor George Moscone are shot to death by Supervisor Dan White in San Francisco, California.
1980 In Providence, Rhode Island, Aaron Fricke sues his high school to allow him to take a male date to the prom. He wins and takes Paul Guilbert to the dance.
1981 U.S. Department of Defense adopts new ban on gays and lesbians, which leads to an increased number of discharges. Many homosexuals stay in the military in secret.
1981 AIDS is first reported in the U.S. in a Centers for Disease Control report about five gay men in Los Angeles with a new illness.
1981 Wisconsin becomes the first state to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing and public accommodation.
1982 A federal judge rules that the policy of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to exclude gays from entering the United States is unconstitutional.
1987 ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) established in new York City in order to end the AIDS crisis by direct action, including holding protests calling for safe sex education in schools, and generic AIDS drugs in Africa.
1988 The Episcopal Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, becomes the first church in the country to support ministers and congregations who condone and bless relationships between gay and lesbian couples.
1990 The Hate Crimes Statistics Act requires the Department of Justice to collect, maintain and report statistics on criminal acts motivated by race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.
1992 Amendment 2 is ratified, prohibiting all levels of government in Colorado from adopting anti-discrimination legislation to protect gays and lesbians. The U.S. Supreme Court strikes it down in 1996.
1993 A Virginia Circuit judge denies custody of 2-year-old Tyler Bottoms to his mother Sharon Bottoms, because she is a lesbian.
1994 Instead of completely repealing the ban on homosexuals in the military, the United States Armed Forces adopts a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
1994 Massachusetts becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination against gay and lesbian students in public schools.
1996 Congress passes and President Clinton signs into law the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
1997 The Hawaii legislature passes a law that extends a number of rights and benefits to same-gender couples, calling them reciprocal beneficiaries. Additional laws granting further rights and benefits are passed in 1999.
1998 Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, dies from a hate crime beating in Wyoming, which leads to a national debate about expanded hate-crimes legislation.
1999 Vermont Supreme Court rules that gay couples must be granted the same benefits and protections awarded married couples of the opposite sex. In 2000, the Vermont legislature enacts a civil unions law.
2000 The U.S. Supreme Court says that the Boy Scouts of America can bar gay troop leaders, overturning a New Jersey Supreme Court Ruling.