A History Of The Gay Rights Movement, One Of The Most Successful Political Enterprises In History

gay rights

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments for two landmark gay rights cases — California’s Proposition 8 and the federal defence of Marriage Act. 

The cases came amid a huge surge in public support for gay marriage over the past decade. 

But this is just the latest fight in a near 40-year battle fought by LGBT Americans to gain recognition and rights. Here’s the timeline of how that successful journey progressed. 

The Gay Rights movement burst onto the public scene with the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, but the groundwork existed even before that. Here are demonstrators protesting in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall on July 4, 1967.

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This demonstration took place a week before the first Christopher Street Day, the commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. The riots — which took place on June 28, 1969 — were a retaliation by members of the gay community following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village.

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Throughout the early 1970s, the gay rights movement expanded, specifically in New York and San Francisco. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from their definitive list of mental illnesses.

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A group of 300 people march to Union Square in New York in support of a city council measure granting civil rights to homosexuals in 1974.

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In 1977 Dade County, Florida enacted an ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Singer Anita Bryant led a publicized campaign, Save Our Children, to overturn the nondiscrimination measure. Bryant emerged as a major antagonist to the gay rights movement in the late 1970s.

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Phone workers call telephone lists to urge voters to support the law once Bryant brought it to a referendum. The gay rights movement lost, but the failure galvanised the group and led to future success.

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That same year, Harvey Milk (left) became the sixth openly gay person elected to public office as a city-county supervisor in San Francisco. Milk was assassinated a year later by a fellow supervisor.

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In 1980, The Democratic Party became the first major political party in the U.S. to endorse a gay rights platform. Here, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Bella Abzug attend the Gay Vote 1980 Reception For Delegates in New York.

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In 1985, Houston-area members of the Ku Klux Klan walk in protest of an upcoming gay rights referendum. A year earlier, Berkeley, Calif., became the first city to offer employees domestic partnership benefits.

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By 1987, the AIDS epidemic had prompted a new wave of homophobia in the U.S. First called the Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), the disease also spawned several education and self-empowerment movements through the gay community. This picture was taken at the second annual walk to benefit AIDS research in Boston.

Source: Infoplease, AP

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Six years later, in 1993, activists rallied in the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. An estimated 300,000 to 1,000,000 attended the march.

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Marchers carry a mile-long rainbow banner up First Avenue in New York to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1994.

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In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out publicly as a lesbian, becoming one of the first and most recognisable LGBT figures. Here, she listens as President Clinton addresses the Human Rights Campaign national dinner in 1997. A year earlier, Clinton signed the defence of Marriage Act, which restricted federal marriage benefits to only opposite-sex marriages.

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In 2000, Vermont became the first state in the country to legally recognise civil unions between gay and lesbian couples. Here, Gov. Howard Dean talks to reporters after signing the bill.

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In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws in the U.S. were unconstitutional. John Lawrence (left) and Tyron Garner celebrate the ruling.

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In November of that year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that preventing gays and lesbians from marrying violates the state constitution. Shortly before same-sex marriages became legal, Gov. Mitt Romney promised to seek emergency legislation forestalling the marriages.

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But on May 17, 2004, same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts. Here, Marcia Hams and her partner Susan Shepard shake hands with Cambridge City Clerk Margaret Drury after completing marriage application documents.

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By 2006, civil unions had become legal in Connecticut and New Jersey. Oregon followed suit with similar legislation in 2008. And on May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry. Here, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom celebrates.

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However, opponents of same-sex marriage in California launched the campaign for Proposition 8, a public referendum that would ban same-sex marriage in the state. It passed, setting the stage for the current Supreme Court battle.

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In April 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejected a state law banning same-sex marriage, legalizing gay marriage in the Hawkeye State.

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Between 2009 and 2011, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia, and New York all legalized same-sex marriage. Maine voters eventually overturned the law. Here's New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo giving a thumbs up at the New York City Gay Pride Parade in 2011.

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In May 2012, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage in a nationally televised interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on both California's Proposition 8 and the federal defence of Marriage Act.

Source: Infoplease, AP

See how the Supreme Court hearings went...

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