Google has recently launched an ambitious campaign titled Legalise Love, one that is aimed to pressure countries where it has offices to give gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders more rights and recognition. While Legalise Love gathers steam, we look at the beginnings of the gay right movements and its progress
Pioneers of Gay Rights
He was one of the leading strategists of the early gay rights movements, which began nearly a decade before the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich. He publicly advocated that there were homosexuals throughout the population, that they were not mentally ill, and that there was neither reason nor justification for the many forms of discrimination prevalent against them. In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the US Army Map Service in Washington, DC because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin “a Herculean struggle with the American establishment” that would “spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s.
She was one woman with a spark. In May 1965, four years before the Stonewall riots that ushered in the modern gay rights movement. Gittings and 25 other homosexuals picketed the White House to protest employment discrimination in the federal government. The sign she carried—”Sexual preference is irrelevant to federal employment” — is now at the Smithsonian. She came out in the conservative era of the 1950s, and formed a branch of the first national organisation for lesbians in New York. Her lobbying efforts resulted in changing the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.
During her life, Goldman was lionised as a free-thinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and derided by critics as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. Although she distanced herself from first-wave feminism and its efforts toward women’s suffrage, she developed new ways of incorporating gender politics into anarchism. She was the first person to speak out openly on gay rights. “It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life,” she said.
J ack was an American gay rights activist. He co-founded the Washington, DC branch of the Mattachine Society in 1961 with Franklin E Kameny. He is one of the elder statesmen of the gay liberation movement. His tireless work on behalf of The Mattachine Society, his efforts to bring the issue of gay rights to a national public consciousness, his work to unify community members and incite gay pride, his tireless campaign to remove homosexuality from the list of psychological disorders, as well as merely living his life as an out gay man since the early 1960s earned him a lot of respect. Nichols led the first gay rights march on the White House, in April 1965
Lilli Vincenz is a pioneering gay rights activist. In 1965, she was the only lesbian to participate in the first White House picket. From 1965 to 1969, Vincenz demonstrated each Fourth of July in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. These protests, called Annual Reminders, launched the gay and lesbian civil rights movement.
After three unsuccessful campaigns, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors. His election was a landmark event. The reason? Harvey Milk was gay, and his election was the first of an openly gay elected official in the United States. On November 27, 1978, Milk was assassinated by Dan White. Milk’s goal in asserting gay pride through political empowerment, was not to force mainstream America to accept homosexuality, but to respect the homosexual’s right to be homosexual, without governmental interference or hindrance. Milk fought not for the universal acceptance of homosexuality as “an alternate lifestyle”, but for a universal acceptance of homosexuals as human beings, endowed by their creator with the same unalienable rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Whether his audience was sympathetic or hostile, Milk always depicted the struggle for gay rights as “the fight to preserve your democracy.”
The India Story
Until 2009, Homosexual intercourse was a criminal offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. After a prolonged legal battle, this law was struck down by the Delhi High Court decision Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, which found Section 377 and other legal prohibitions against same-sex conduct to be in direct violation of fundamental rights provided by the Indian Constitution. However, the historic judgement made headlines again when the Union Home Ministry opposed the decriminalisation of gay sex. Even when the government reversed its stand later, there was huge public backlash about the government’s homophobic attitude.
India’s stand on LGBT rights is at best, ambiguous. While homosexual intercourse might not be criminal, same-sex relationships are not yet legal and have no rights to speak of.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The words “bisexual” and “heterosexual” are first used in their current senses in Charles Gilbert Chaddock’s translation of Kraft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis.
The New York Times is the first major publication to use the word “homosexuality”.
Upon the liberation of Nazi concentration camps by Allied forces, those interned for homosexuality are not freed, but required to serve out the full term of their sentences
The United States Supreme Court rules in favour of the First Amendment rights of a gay and lesbian magazine.
The Stonewall riots occur in New York. On Friday evening, June 27, 1969, the New York City tactical police force raided a popular Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. Raids were not unusual in 1969; in fact, they were conducted regularly without much resistance. However, that night the street erupted into violent protests as the crowds in the bar fought back. The backlash and several nights of protest that followed have come to be known as the Stonewall Riots.
The first Gay Liberation Day March is held in New York City; The first LGBT Pride Parade is held in Los Angeles; The first “Gay-in” held in San Francisco
The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II)
Sweden is the first country to pass laws protecting homosexual regarding social services, taxes, and inheritances
The first Dyke March (a march for lesbians and their straight female allies, planned by the Lesbian Avengers) was held, with 20,000 women marching
Same sex marriages laws came into effect in the Netherlands, Germany, Finland
Iceland elects the first openly gay head of government in the world, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to publicly announce support for same-sex marriage on May 9