In the past couple of years the LGBT community has seen a number of victories in America when it comes to equal rights in employment, marriage and politics. However we should never forget that it took a lot defeats to get to those victories.
We take a look back at America’s biggest gay right defeats.
1950 – The Lavender Scare
The Lavender Scare refers to the persecution of gays and lesbians in 1950s, and in particular the anti-communist campaign – known as McCarthyism. While McCarthyism is very well known, a lesser-known element was the the targeting of gays and lesbians. At this time, homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness, and because of that politicians believed they were easy prey for blackmailers (especially communists blackmailers), thus constituting a security risk. The result – thousands of federal employees lost their jobs.
By 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower formally signed Executive Order 10450 banning homosexuals from working for the federal government or any of its private contractors. The policy wasn’t officially rescinded until 1995 when President Bill Clinton did so with Executive Order, which included an anti-discrimination statement that reads:
“The United States Government does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in granting access to classified information.”
1952 – APA Lists Homosexuality as a ’Sociopathic Personality Disturbance’ Disorder
Homosexuality was first labelled a mental illness in the 30’s, however in 1952 the American Psychiatric Association officially listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. In a report know as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it included a category called sexual deviation as a subtype of sociopathic personality disturbance. The second publication of the DSM in 1968 continued to list homosexuality as a disorder and formally gave the “disease” its own code – 302.0. It wasn’t until 1973 that the board of the American Psychiatric Association finally voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
1977 – Anita Bryant Wages Successful Campaign to Repeal Pro-Gay Rights Ordinance
Anita Bryant – Singer and spokeswoman for Florida’s orange juice industry led a successful crusade called “Save Our Children” repealing gay rights ordinance in Dade County. Bryant faced severe backlash from gay rights supporters across the U.S. and many gay bars boycotted orange juice in their establishments. The ordinance was finally reinstated on December 1, 1998, more than 20 years after the campaign.
1986 – Supreme Court Upholds Sodomy Laws
The Supreme Court decided to uphold the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law, which criminalized oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults when applied to homosexuals. It was a huge setback to the gay rights movement. The Supreme Court reversed their decision in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated a similar Texas sodomy law.
1990 – Court Rules Gays Can be Denied Security Clearance
High Tech Gays, an organization for gays in the high tech industry, challenged the Department of Defense’s long standing policy of not giving security clearances to applicants who were known or thought to be homosexual. The group won in district court, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later reversed the decision.
1993 – ’Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Enacted
The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was introduced as a compromise by President Bill Clinton, who campaigned in 1992 on the promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation. DADT prohibited military personnel from harassing or discriminating against gay and lesbian service members as long as they stayed in the closet. The policy turned out to be disaster as more gay and lesbian service men being discharged because of their sexual orientation than before. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was ruled unconstitutional in federal court in 2010.
1996 – Defense of Marriage Act Becomes Law
In 1996 both houses of congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act with a veto proof majority, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. The law barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage and defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. It also stated that no state can be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state. The first part of that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013 with United States v. Windsor. The second part has since been ruled unconstitutional by several lower courts.
2004 – 13 American States Formally Ban gay marriage
In 2004 the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriage, making it state the first in the nation to do so. However, 13 states formally banned gay marriage including Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, and Michigan.
2008 – Prop 8 Bans Same-Sex Marriage in California
In 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. The anti-gay forces though quickly rallied together, getting enough signatures to put the issue up for a vote later that year. In November that year, the voters approved Proposition 8, making gay marriage illegal. The loss was a massive blow. But when the law was challenged in federal court it was ruled unconstitutional, and set the stage for a potentially historic Supreme Court decision. In the end, the lower court’s decision was upheld on a technicality, making gay marriage in the state once again legal.
Source – Edge San Francisco
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