Queer History

An overview of the key events in American queer history.

1924 - The first gay rights group in the US is founded

The first gay rights group, the Society for Human Rights, was founded in Chicago by a German immigrant, Henry Gerber. Although it disbanded in 1925, its members informed the creation of other gay rights groups around the country (Chicago Tribune).

1950 - The Mattachine Society is founded

One of the first sustained gay rights groups in the US, the Mattachine Society was founded by activist Harry Hay and focused on support and social acceptance for homosexuals (CNN).

1955 - The first lesbian rights society is founded

Called the Daughters of Bilitis, this group was based in San Francisco and hosted private social functions to provide a safe space for lesbian couples, free of discrimination and police harassment (CNN).

1961 - First state decriminalizes homosexuality

Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality by repealing its anti-sodomy laws (CNN).

1969 - Stonewall Riots/Uprising occurs

A routine police raid on a seedy Greenwich Village gay bar sparked protests and demonstrations that provided the impetus for the gay civil rights movement in the US. As a result, in 2016 President Barack Obama designated the site of the bar and the surrounding streets as a national monument (Encyclopedia Britannica).

1970 - First gay pride parade

To recognize the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, New York City citizens marched in an event called the Christopher Street Liberation Day. This is considered the first gay pride parade (CNN).

1973 - First legal organization protecting gay rights is founded

This organization, called Lambda Legal, filed its first case on its own behalf when denied non-profit status, which the New York Supreme Court eventually granted. It is still alive and well today (Lamdba Legal).

1973 - First PFLAG meeting

Parents and Friends of Gays had its first meeting on March 26, 1973. It later goes national as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in 1982, adopting its current name (CNN).

1973 - Homosexuality is officially removed from the APA list of mental disorders

The APA (American Psychiatric Association) voted 5,854 to 3,810 to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in the DSM-II Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Originally, it was classified as a sociopathic personality disturbance (CNN).

1974 - First openly LGBTQ American is elected

Kathy Kozachenko became the first openly LGBTQ American to be elected to any public office when she won an Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council seat (CNN).

1975 - The first federal gay rights bill is introduced

Introduced to address discrimination based on sexual orientation, the bill goes to the Judiciary Committee but is never brought for consideration (CNN).
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1978 - The first rainbow flag is made

Gilbert Baker designed and stitched the first rainbow flag as a symbol of pride for the LGBTQ community. He was inspired by Harvey Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor and first openly gay man to be elected to a political office in California (CNN). Image courtesy of torbakhopper on Flickr.

1982 - First state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation

Wisconsin became the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation (CNN).

2003 - First state to legalize gay marriage

Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in the US after the Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that the state's ban on gay marriage violated same-sex couples' constitutional rights (Huffington Post).

2015 - The US legalizes gay marriage

Gay marriage became legal in all of the United States after the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states could not deny same-sex couples the right to marry (CNN).

2016 - Transgender people are allowed to openly serve in the US military

Defense Secretary Carter made the decision to lift the Pentagon's ban on transgender individuals openly serving in the US military, effective immediately (CNN).

2017 - First gender neutral driver's licenses

DC became the first place in the US to begin issuing gender neutral driver's licenses, which feature a letter X as the gender marker, rather than the traditional F and M (CNN).