Gay Equal Rights News

The struggle for LGBT equal rights has come to the forefront of world news. Gay, lesbian and transgender people are discussed in Congress, in the press and on television – no longer as novelty characters or exotic creatures.

The Supreme Court refuses to review five marriage cases, allowing lower court rulings to stand and opening the door for same-sex couples to marry in Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Virginia.

March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

The first national gay rights march was organized in response to two salient sociocultural developments: a perceived rise of homophobia in the Reagan administration and an AIDS crisis that left many people feeling vulnerable and stigmatized. The movement for gay equality began to take hold, and the organizers of the first march envisioned a much larger event in the future.

By the summer of 1986, several lesbian and gay organizations had convened at the first National Conference on Gay and Lesbian Rights in New York City. The delegates drafted a statement of purpose and called for an organizing meeting to discuss plans for a march on Washington.

Instead of seeking input from local LGBT activists, HRC founders Barney Frank and Gerry Studds and Troy Perry, leader of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, formed a march committee on their own. They also hired lesbian event producer Robin Tyler to plan the march.

The march was a success, and it gave the movement a sense of unity and national importance that had not previously existed. Activists from a broad range of backgrounds joined in support of the march’s platform, which included calls for legal recognition of lesbian and gay relationships; a repeal of laws that criminalized sodomy between consenting adults; and an end to discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. The event also included the public display of Cleve Jones’ NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The Stonewall Riots

The summer of 1969 began with a quiet stroll in Central Park and ended in a furious riot that would change gay people’s lives forever. That riot, called the Stonewall Riots by historians and others, is often remembered as the first gay uprising, the moment when LGBTQ people stepped out of the shadows and fought back against police harassment and discrimination.

In Greenwich Village, patrons of the Stonewall Inn reacted to a late-night raid on June 28. Police, led by deputy inspector Seymour Pine, were trying to close the bar for a liquor law violation when patrons fought back. They threw pennies, bottles and cobble stones, and scuffled with police. The uprising lasted six nights and spurred a wave of other protests across the country and around the world.

Before Stonewall, there were protests and spontaneous fights between LGBTQ people and the police, but they were few and far between. The Stonewall uprising kindled a burst of organizing that changed the tone and volume of gay activism, making it louder and more visible.

As gay activists mark the 50th anniversary of the riots, some look back with pride, while others see a movement that hasn’t accomplished its goals. Yvonne Ritter, who was 18 when she changed into her mother’s dress to go to the Stonewall Inn, sees the uprising as a stepping stone along a winding road toward equal rights.

Same-Sex Marriage

For years, gay marriage has been a major issue for both the LGBT community and political movement. Many LGBT people have a longing for stable relationships and want to be legally married to their partners. Advocates have pointed out that same-sex couples are very similar to heterosexuals in terms of their commitment to each other and that their marriages often last for 10 years or more.

In recent years, same-sex marriage has made headway in some states, including New York and Connecticut. In addition, a US appeals court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and required the government to treat same-sex marriages as equivalent to heterosexual ones.

Social conservatives, however, argue that marriage is a fundamental institution that should only be between one man and one woman. They also say that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will radically redefine the institution, leading to high divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births.

Regardless of the debate, gay and lesbian couples continue to seek legal recognition of their relationships. In 2013 and 2015, the Supreme Court struck down laws banning same-sex marriage, a landmark victory for equality advocates. The decision means that all 50 states now recognize gay and lesbian couples’ unions as legitimate marriages. It also means that federal benefits, such as health insurance and unemployment compensation, are available to those in gay and lesbian marriages.

The Olympics

The Olympics were originally conceived by Baron de Coubertin as an amiable opportunity for amateur athletes from around the world to compete in friendly competition. The modern Olympics, however, are a huge commercial operation with venue costs exceeding billions of dollars. The games promote a variety of commercial products and endorse a large number of professional sportsmen. They also have a reputation for protecting the Olympic ideals of universality, equality and non-discrimination.

The US Supreme Court is poised to decide a case that pits the rights of gay people to access goods and services without discrimination against the religious freedom of a Christian graphic artist who refuses to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. The decision could have dire consequences for lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and other groups of people whose rights are being attacked.

The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBT Americans and released a guidebook that points out laws it considers discriminatory in each state, along with information about filing complaints for civil rights violations and resources for financing moves to states with stronger protections. It also offers advice on navigating difficult conversations with friends and family about LGBTQ policies.

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