LGBTQ+ History Month is a month-long celebration of the history of the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community as well as the importance of civil rights movements in progressing gay rights. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBTQ+ History Month within a list of commemorative months. October was selected to coincide with National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), which was already established, and the anniversary of the first march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979.

In honor of this month, BHGR wanted to highlight the important events and impact that the legal system has had on the LGBTQ+ community throughout history.


The Fourteenth Amendment Ratified. This is the most cited amendment in Supreme Court civil rights cases and has been the basis for landmark civil rights cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. Gay rights advocates cite this amendment in support of equality for future court cases.


Henry Gerber forms the Society for Human Rights, the first gay group in the US, but the group is quickly shut down.

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The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall, is published in the United States. This sparks great legal controversy and brings the topic of homosexuality to public conversation.

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Congress put forth a report entitled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government,” which marks the first time that Congress explicitly discriminated based on sexual orientation. This prejudicial report encouraged the Civil Service Commission to investigate and fire “moral perverts” who worked for the federal government and designated homosexuality a psychological illness that made workers “generally unsuitable” for employment and government “security risks.”


When Congress passed the 1952 Immigration Act, it continued to limit entrance into the country based on sexual orientation. The Act’s clause banning “aliens afflicted with a psychopathic personality, epilepsy or mental defect” was written to intentionally exclude immigrants who were members of the LGBTQ+ community.


One, Inc. v. Olesen

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a magazine published for a homosexual audience was obscene and was therefore not constitutionally protected under the First Amendment rights of free speech and press.


Illinois became the first U.S. state to remove sodomy law from its criminal code.


The first “Gay Liberation Day March” is held in New York City.

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Baker v. Nelson

Jack Baker and McConnell were married on September 3, 1971, by Methodist minister Roger Lynn. It was the first legal same-sex marriage in the United States. On October 15, 1971, the justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on Baker v. Nelson, unanimously rejecting the couple’s appeal. The court’s opinion denied their claims for a constitutional right to marry based on the First, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Baker and McConnell appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking them to rule on the issue of same-sex marriage for the first time. On October 10, 1972, the Supreme Court dismissed the case “for want of a substantial federal question” and upheld the state’s decision.


The board of the American Psychiatric Association votes 13-0 to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders, the DSM-II. The resolution also urges an end to private and public discrimination and repeal of laws discriminating against homosexuals. However, homosexuality continues to be pathologized by appearing as Sexual Orientation Disturbance in the DSM-II, and then as Egodystonic Homosexuality in the DSM-III. Sexual orientation is finally removed in the revised version of the DSM-III 1987.


Harvey Milk becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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Democrats are the first political party to add “gay rights” to their platform during the Democratic National Convention.


Bowers v. Hardwick

After being charged with violating the Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy by committing that act with another adult male in the bedroom of his home, respondent Hardwick (respondent) brought suit in Federal District Court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute insofar as it criminalized consensual sodomy. The court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the Georgia statute violated respondent's fundamental rights.


Denmark becomes the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex unions after passing a bill legalizing “registered partnerships” in a 71–47 vote.

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After the AIDS epidemic and growth of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, Congress and President Bill Clinton adopted “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in the armed forces. This legislation allowed gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the military for the first time; however, the measure was also discriminatory, prohibiting them from openly expressing their sexuality in public, in uniform or off duty.


Romer v. Evans

Colorado voters adopted Amendment 2 to their State Constitution precluding any judicial, legislative, or executive action designed to protect persons from discrimination based on their "homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships." Following a legal challenge by homosexual and other aggrieved parties, the state trial court entered a permanent injunction enjoining Amendment 2's enforcement. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed on appeal.


Tammy Baldwin became the first openly lesbian candidate ever elected to Congress, winning Wisconsin’s second congressional district seat over Josephine Musser.

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NYC expands the definition of “gender” to include protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the NYC Human Rights Law.


Lawerence v. Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court overturns sodomy laws, proclaiming rights to privacy and decriminalizing “homosexual” behavior.


Massachusetts becomes the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage.


Attorney and transgender activist Kim Coco Iwamoto is elected to the state-level Board of Education in Hawaii. She is the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state level office in the US.

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The David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act or David’s Law was a bill introduced in the US House of Representatives, designed to enhance federal enforcement of laws regarding hate crimes, and to specifically make sexual orientation, like race and gender, a protected class.


President Obama signs the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes and Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, into law. The law expands the 1969 U.S. federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and becomes the first federal law to include legal protections for transgender people.


Congress and President Barack Obama’s administration repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing open members of the LGBTQ+ community to serve in the armed forces.


United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan issues a statement clarifying that students have the right to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs) under the Equal Access Act of 1984 in any public school that allows noncurricular student groups to form. Schools must also provide GSAs with the same opportunities as other groups to convene and access resources.


U.S. v. Windsor

The US federally recognizes same-sex marriages, extending federal benefits to couples in states that allow same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that prohibited same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage benefits. On this same day, the Supreme Court also rules that California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, allowing California to become the 13th state where same-sex couples can marry.


The Department of Education issues official guidance to clarify that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against students on the bases of sex/gender in federally funded education programs and activities.


Austin City Council approves ordinance for single-stall bathrooms to be recognized as gender-neutral.


Obergefell v. Hodges
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This decision mandated that states must allow same-sex couples to legally marry.


The Senate confirms Eric Fanning to be secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay secretary of a US military branch. Fanning previously served as Defense Secretary Carter’s chief of staff, and also served as undersecretary of the Air Force and deputy undersecretary of the Navy.

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Kimberly Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, 853 F.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees, after Kimberly Hively sues Ivy Tech Community College for violating Title VII of the act by denying her employment.


The trump administration announces a new policy that bans most transgender people from serving in military. After several court battles, the Supreme Court allows the ban to go into effect in January 2019.


The Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination. The landmark ruling extends protection to millions of workers nationwide and is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation.


President Joe Biden signs an executive order repealing the 2019 Trump-era ban on most transgender Americans joining the military. “This is reinstating a position that the previous commanders and, as well as the secretaries, have supported. And what I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform,” Biden said, speaking from the Oval Office just before signing the executive order.


President Biden signs the Respect for Marriage Act, which includes new federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples. The new law officially voids the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It mandates that states honor the validity of out-of-state marriage licenses, including same-sex and interracial union.