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The Fight for Equality

1920'S, 1930'S, 1940'S, AND 1950'S
1980'S AND 1990'S

In early times, homosexuality was accepted. This is safe to assume because the Ancient Greeks believed that the relationship between a man and a boy was the more pure form of love. The Ancient people didn't burn all of Sappho's poetry like religious leaders began to in 380 AD either. Spartans also included homosexuality in their military training. Every young soldier knew it was ideal to have an older lover to train him in the arts of war. When the Olympics began in Ancient Greece, only men competed, and they did so nude. They only spectators were men.

As Christianity began to spread, homosexuality was seen as a sin and rejected as "normal." Most views against les/bi/gay people were (and still are) negative, and some were even executed for it.

In 380 AD, Gregory of Nazianzus ordered the burning of Sappho's poetry. He was one of the "Fathers of the Church" and was named a saint. In 900, religious leaders ordered all copies of Sappho's work to be destroyed. These orders were given because Sappho expressed of the love between two women.

In earlier times, there were harsh penalties for one convicted of homosexuality. In 1260, The Orleans Legal School organized a way to punish women found guilty of lesbianism in three steps: On the first charge, her clitoris was to be removed; on the second, she was to acquire further mutilation; and, on the third, she was to be burned on the stake.

Mary Hammon and Goodwife Norman were charged with "lewd behavior upon a bed" in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1649. The charges against sixteen year old Hammon were dropped. Norman was forced to make a public confession and is believed to be the first woman convicted of lesbianism in the US.

In 1655, the New Haven colony expanded its definition of sodomy to include lesbianism. Homosexual relations, heterosexual anal sex, and masturbation were all crimes punishable by death.

Deborah Sampson (descendant of Governor William Bradford) was excommunicated from the First Baptist Church in Middleborough, Massachussetts, in 1782, for dressing in men's clothing and acting in "unchristian-like" behavior.

In 1836, the last person in Briton was executed for homosexuality. However, the law still remained in the books until 1861.

Gays and lesbians began to establish social institutions throughout major cities in the United States between the 1860's and the 1920's.

In 1863, Philip H. Sheridan reported that two women were in the Union army. He claimed that they were passing as men and were lovers. After being found out, the women were discharged, given clothes "proper for their sex," and sent home.

In an 1883 article about cross-dressing Lucy Ann Lobdell in the "Alienist and Neurologist" medical journal, the word "lesbian" was used to denote a woman who loves women rather than an inhabitant of Lesbos for the first time.

On Sunday, June 6, 1886, Annie Hindle and Annie Ryan got married in a hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Reverend K.B. Tupper performed the ceremony. Hindle wore men's clothing, gave her name as Charles E. Hindle, and gave her age as thirty-one (she was probably thirty-nine or forty). Ryan was twenty-two.

In 1896, two actresses kiss on American stage for the first time.

France decriminalized homosexuality between consenting adults in private in the year of 1910.

Holland passes a law in 1911 that prohibited sexual contact between members of the same sex under twenty-one.

1920'S, 1930'S, 1940'S, AND 1950'S
In 1920, Sigmund Freud's German paper "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Female Homosexuality" was translated to English. He stated that homosexuality is the result of gender confusion and that homosexuals "role-play" gender roles. He also stated that some women are lesbians because they hate men. However, Freud wrote a letter (dated April 9, 1935) to a woman requesting treatment for her homosexual son that stated "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime-and a cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis." Freud's daughter was also a lesbian.

In 1922, The God of Vengeance, a play featuring a lesbian relationship, was produced in Provincetown.

Emma Goldman was labeled the "most dangerous woman in America" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1923 due to her strong support of gay rights and equality.

In 1924, The Society for Human Rights is formed in Chicago. This was the first formally organized gay-rights movement.

In 1933, Hitler banned all gay press. About 12 000 books, periodicals, and documents were burned (probably some more of Sappho's work included). Then, on June 28, 1934, two hundred "homosexual pigs who besmirch the honor of the party" (Hitler) were executed in the anti-gay holocaust. Hitler began to mark homosexual males with the pink triangle and "socially unacceptable" females (including women who refused to marry, prostitutes, and lesbians) with black triangles in 1937.

In 1944, Sweden repealed their anti-gay laws.

In 1947, Lisa Ben (Edyth Eyde's pseudonym for "lesbian") publishes the first US lesbian magazine, Vice-Versa, in Los Angeles.

During the Cold War in the 1950's, homosexuality was linked with Communism.

Homosexuality remained a felony in all states until the 1950's. An Idaho man was even sent to life imprisonment on a conviction.

The US Congress enacts a law banning les/bi/gays from entering the country in 1952. This law was repealed in 1990.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower prohibited gays and lesbians to work at federal jobs in 1953.

One, a journal for the gay and lesbian community is published in Los Angeles in 1953.

In 1954, Dr. Caprio published Female Homosexuality. In it he stated, "The vast majority of lesbians are emotionally unstable and neurotic."

The Daughters of Biltis then formed in San Francisco during the year of 1955. This was the first formally organized lesbian group. Many people consider the first solid victory for the gay and lesbian community in 1958, when the US Supreme Court ruled that One could be sent through mail.

Czechoslovakia repealed their anti-gay laws in 1961.

In 1962, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts between two consenting adults in private. The Society for Individual Rights was found in San Francisco in the year of 1964.

In 1965, many gays and lesbians picket Washington D.C. because of the negative treatment homosexuals where receiving in the military and at government positions.

In 1967, after police raid LA gay bars on New Years, several hundred lesbians and gays rally on Sunset Boulevard.

In 1967, Mary Young and Dawn DeBlanc serve thirty months for "unnatural carnal copulation" in Louisiana.

The word, "homosexual" began to be used in phonebooks in the late 1960's.

Between 1966 and 1968, many groups for lesbians and gays were formed on college campuses.

On Saturday, June 27, 1969, police raided Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York. By this time, two gay bars have already been shut down. As a reason for raiding the bar, police claimed that Stonewall was selling liquor without a license. Two barmen, three drag-queens, and a lesbian were arrested.

A large crowd gathered and began to throw bottles. They also shouted names at the cops. When one cop was hit and started to bleed, the cops became infuriated. The cops draw their guns and one says, "We'll shoot the first motherfucker that comes through the door."

As they wait for the mob to surge forward, someone pours lighter fluid through a broken window. A match is thrown in, and the bar is set aflame.

By 3:30 AM on the following Sunday morning, the riot had burned itself out. It is estimated that 4 000 gay men, drag-queens, and lesbians were on the streets rioting that night chanting "Gay Power!" This was the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement.

In 1970, the National Organization for Women (NOW) kicks out Rita Mae Brown and other lesbians.

Amazon Bookstore, the first American Lesbian-Feminist bookstore, opens in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1970.

The pink triangle was used as a symbol for gay pride during the 70's.

In 1971, Connecticut, Colorado, and Oregon repealed their sodomy statutes (finally!).

In 1972, East Lansing, Michigan, became the first city to ban discrimination against homosexuals in city hiring.

Homosexuality was finally removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders in 1973. Also in 1973, The National Gay Task Force was formed. Later, "lesbian" was added and it became The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The first openly gay person to be elected to office was Kathy Kozachenko of Ann Arbor in 1974. She was elected to the Michigan City Council. Later in 1974, Elaine Noble became the first openly gay person to be elected to state. She was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature.

In 1972, Camille Mitchell becomes the first open lesbian to win the custody of her children in her divorce case. However, the judge prohibits her from living with her lover.

In 1973, two Army WACs, Gail Bates and Valerie Randolph, were removed from the military after marrying in San Francisco.

The first bill to prohibit discrimination against les/bi/gays, HR-14752, was introduced to the House by Bella Abzug and Ed Koch in 1974.

In early 1977, Dade County in Florida passed an ordinance granting full rights and no discrimination towards homosexuals.

The first March of Washington for Gay Rights is held in 1979, and about two hundred thousand people attended.

Before the rainbow flag, a few different symbols were used to represent homosexuals. In Victorian, England, green was associated with homosexuality. After the Stonewall riot in 1969, purple was used and gays used the phrase "purple power" to show their pride. In the early 1980's, there was the pink triangle. The pink triangle originated in Nazi Germany concentration camps to identify gay males.

In 1978, Gilbert Baker of San Francisco designed and made the rainbow flag to represent gay pride. The original flag had eight colors: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. These colors were to represent sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. The flag then changed to just the six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) and is still used today as the symbol of gay pride. It is even recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers.

Harvey Bernard Milk was born on May 22, 1930, at Woodmere Hospital, Long Island, New York. He graduated from Albany State College in 1951 and then served in the Navy on the USS Kittyhawk. He was dishonorably discharged when people found out he was gay.

In 1977, Milk became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Board of Supervisors (City Council) in San Francisco.

On November 27, 1978, Milk was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone by former City Supervisor, Dan White.

Milk had said prior, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door."

He also said, "The blacks did not win their rights by sitting quietly in the back of the bus. They got off! Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets... We are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth about gays!"

Unfortunately, White got off with manslaughter. His attorney argued that he was unstable due to eating too much junk food the night before (this became known as the "Twinkie Defense"). White got out of prison in five years and then committed suicide.

1980'S AND 1990'S
In 1982, Texas had a proposed amendment that stated a person could be denied housing on account of sexual orientation. No proof was even needed, just suspicion. Fortunately, sixty-three percent of voters voted no.

In Cleveland, Ohio, between June of 1983 and March of 1984, five gay people were murdered. In New York City between March 27 and December 10, 1985, four homosexuals were stabbed to death. The number of hate crimes against homosexuals has been rising.

In 1986, twenty-four states and the District of Columbia still had anti-sodomy laws.

Studies of 1981 prove that poor parenting and society do not influence one's sexuality.

Wisconsin becomes the first state to prohibit discrimination against homosexuals in 1982.

In 1985, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was formed.

Becky Smith and Annie Afleck (Fremont, California) became the first lesbian couple to jointly adopt a child 1986.

During May of 1989, Denmark became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

In 1990, Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom won her decade long battle after being discharged from the US Army for being a lesbian. She became the first open lesbian to be re-enlisted. When the Army repealed, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court.

In 1992, The Lesbian Avengers were found in New York.

About one million people attend the March for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Rights in 1993.

Same-sex marriage has been a topic of debate. On June 22, 1994, the government of Hawaii signed a law prohibiting same-sex marriage. Marriage was defined only between two people of the opposite sex. Also, on June 27, 1996, Michigan Governor, John Engler, signed a bill banning same-sex marriage. He said, "This new law ensures that in Michigan, marriage will continue to be what is always has been-a covenant between a man and a woman."

On April 30, 1997, Ellen Degeneres' character, Ellen Morgan, becomes prime-time television's first main character to come out as a lesbian. (Old episodes of Ellen are still shown on Lifetime from 4:00 to 5:00 PM Eastern)

On January 12, 1998, lawyer Robin Shahar was denied a job by the Georgia attorney general because she was with a woman. She also lost her Supreme Court appeal.

Washington becomes the twenty-seventh state to ban same-sex marriage on February 6, 1998.

Ex-defensive end for the Green Bay Packers (he recently retired), Reggie White, made some homophobic comments saying that the U.S. is "going away from God" by "allowing homosexuality to run rampant." He went on for an hour and even stated that sexuality is "a decision."

Openly gay ex-Packer, Dave Kopay, was surprised by White's comments, "I'm so absolutely appalled that someone of White's stature would be so insensitive to a group that has faced so much discrimination and bigotry."

The National Organization for Women (NOW), which was founded in 1966, has done so much for both women and the gay/lesbian community. Right now, NOW is the largest organization of feminist activists. There are currently 250,000 members and 600 chapters in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

NOW has been working on many issues. These include the Equal Rights Amendment, working issues (equal pay), sexual harassment, racial issues, abortion and reproduction rights, violence against woman, and lesbian rights.

Lesbian rights has been an issue for NOW since 1971 and one of their priorities since 1975. NOW helped to defeat an anti-lesbian and gay act known as Question 1 in Maine. They are also in support of same-sex marriage.

Another issue gays and lesbians are fighting for is the right to serve in the United States military. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people were discharged from the military on account of sexual orientation. During Desert Storm in 1991, about 1,000 people were removed from the military. Keith Meinhold was kicked out of the Navy for being gay. He took his case to court and in January of 1993, a federal judge ruled the military's policy unconstitutional.

Famous Les/Bi/Gay People throughout History
Lesbian Poetry
Same-Sex Marriage
Homophobia and Hate Crimes
Links for Parents Trying to Deal with Their Teen's Homosexuality
Links for Teens Trying to Deal with Their Own Homosexuality
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Copyright © 1999 D.E. Wojo