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Key Moments in LGBTQ+ History

Robyn Exton

Nov 03, 2021

Key Moments in LGBTQ+ History

Important Dates in LGBTQ+ History

As we celebrate this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month across the nation, now is the time to look back on the key moments in Pride history.

While so many of us do an incredible job advocating for equal rights within the LGBTQ+ community and trying to improve the current issues, it’s also important to recognize and celebrate how far we’ve come.

In this article, we’ll do exactly that!

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Why Know the History?

Did you know that LGBTQ+ History Month was created in 1994 by a Missouri high school teacher by the name of Rodney Wilson?

He was an openly gay history teacher who noticed students weren’t learning about the LGBTQ+ rights movement in their studies.

The following year, the General Assembly of the National Education Association passed the resolution as a commemorative month.

To this day, October remains an important month for the LGBTQ+ community.

While some countries celebrate in different months around the world, October is LGBTQ+ History Month in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The month also includes National Coming Out Day on October 11, Ally Week where students are encouraged to stand up against bullying with LGBTQ+ youth, and Spirit Day on October 20, where students wear purple to remember Matthew Shepherd, an LGBTQ+ student who was murdered as a hate crime.

It’s important to learn about and remember these important figures in history who have fought for our visibility and freedom.

So, in the spirit of LGBTQ+ History Month, let’s take a look at some of the most incredible key moments, achievements, and extraordinary role models in history that have shaped the LGBTQ+ community today.

Historic Moments

1924: The Society for Human Rights group was established

Henry Gerber, a German immigrant, was the founder of this first LGBT rights group in the United States.

During his service in the U.S army during World War I, he created the organization after being inspired by a “homosexual emancipation” group in Germany.

January 1958: The Supreme Court rules in favor of gay rights

Although the Supreme Court of the United States was established in 1780, it didn’t rule in favor of gay rights until 1958.

After the U.S post refused to deliver LA’s first homosexual-pro magazine called “One,” the case was then taken to the Supreme Court.

The post argued that the magazine was obscene. However, the court ruled in favor of gay rights — making this one of the most important LGBTQ historic moments to date.

June 28, 1969: The Stonewall Riots

On this day, police raided a New York City gay bar — the Stonewall Inn — for the second time in one week.

The tension and harassment that had been happening caused the bar’s patrons and supporters to take a stand in what became a long protest and violent riot.

They protested through the streets of New York for six days, which became known as the Gay Pride parade that we still celebrate to this day.

1970: The first “Gay Pride” parade

Just one year after the Stonewall Riots, activists marched through the streets of New York during the first “gay pride” parade.

It was originally known as Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day but became known as Gay Pride Day the following year.

1973: Homosexuality is no longer considered a psychiatric illness

As shocking as it may be to some, homosexuality was once considered a psychiatric disorder in the United States.

Yet, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted, then reissued a statement that homosexuality was no longer on the list of mental illnesses.

This was a key moment in history that helped change public opinion, making it a major landmark for LGBQ+ equality.

1978: The Pride flag was born

Before the 1978 Gay Pride parade, Gilbert Baker created the very first Pride flag in an attic of San Francisco’s Gay Community Center.

He dyed strips of fabric in garbage bins in eight colors: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and purple, before proudly marching with the flag in the streets. 

1987: The second gay congressman comes out voluntarily

After six years on Capitol Hill, Barney Frank becomes the second openly gay man in Congress.

However, it’s also important to note that he was the first man in history to do so voluntarily. 

April 2000: Vermont becomes the first state to allow civil unions between same-sex couples

April 2000 was one of the most important LGBTQ historic moments in the process of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals were granted the right to enter legal partnerships in the state of Vermont.

Even though same-sex marriages were not yet legal, civil unions gave them the same rights and benefits that married couples had.

March 31, 2009: The first International Transgender Day of Visibility

Activist Rachel Crandall proposed the idea of Transgender Day of Visibility in a Facebook post in 2009.

She was tired of the lack of days commemorating the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The idea quickly went viral and was picked up both nationally and across the world.

The day is now celebrated on March 31 each year and also exists to raise awareness of the struggles that jeopardize transgender people’s lives every day.

October 28, 2009: President Obama signs Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act was officially signed by President Obama and named after two notorious tragic hate crime murders.

Matthew Shepherd was murdered for being gay and James Byrd Jr. was killed for being black.

This is a key moment in history that helps raise awareness of the violence that the LGBTQ+ community still faces to this day.

June 26, 2015: Same-sex marriage legalized in all 50 states

On this day, the LGBTQ+ community rejoiced as the Supreme Court officially declared same-sex marriages legal across the nation.

The law gave Americans the right to marry whoever they want, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

June 2020: Protection for LGBTQ+ employees

More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

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Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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