LGBTQ+ Rights

Civil Rights for Gays and Lesbians

From the Archive
Gay Rights

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In the early hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn—an unlicensed club popular among a racially diverse mix of gay, lesbian, and transgender New Yorkers. The state routinely denied liquor licenses to bars that catered to gay patrons, which led to gatherings in unlicensed establishments. The Stonewall raid sparked three days of protests on the streets of Greenwich Village. Advocates for gay rights had been active in the city for decades, but the Stonewall uprising ushered in a new mass movement. 

Following Stonewall, New York’s gay activist groups multiplied and diversified. The Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, Radicalesbians, and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries organized to protest injustice, create social service organizations, and change perceptions about sexuality and gender. They used marches, discussion groups, and new tactics like the “zap”—intentionally confronting officials at public events for media attention.

In the 1980s, AIDS activists used similar strategies to fight for health care and confront government inaction. Groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) campaigned for public awareness, safe sex education, medical care, and government funding for AIDS research. Impatient with the lack of government action, activists founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), which used confrontational demonstrations and bold graphics to capture attention. 

LGBT activism has continued to evolve as New Yorkers have worked to pass anti-discrimination laws, successfully legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, and called for the rights of transgender people and queer people of color.


Key Events

Global  Year    Local

Mattachine Society founded; New York chapter opens five years later


New York chapter of the California-based Daughters of Bilitis, the first U.S. lesbian rights organization, is founded


Mattachine Society organizes “sip-in” demonstration to protest against discrimination by the New York State Liquor AuthorityStonewall Uprising lasts three days

Stonewall Uprising lasts three days


Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance are founded


Lavender Menace founded to protest anti-gay sentiment in the mainstream feminist movement; evolves into Radicalesbians

First Gay Pride Parade in New York City

  1972 Mayor John V. Lindsay issues executive order prohibiting anti-gay discrimination in public sector hiring
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