1874 – Male homosexuality is made illegal in Germany under Paragraph 175 of the criminal code. Punished by imprisonment and/or “loss of civil rights”.
1895 – Oscar Wilde sentenced to two years in prison for homosexuality.
1935 – Nazis expand Paragraph 175. They round up and send those suspected of homosexuality to concentration camps where they are forced to identify themselves by wearing a pink triangle.
1920 – The word “gay” is used for the first time in print to refer to homosexuals.
1945 – Concentration camps in Germany are liberated, but the homosexuals remain in prison to carry out their sentence under Paragraph 175.
1951 – Greece decriminalizes homosexuality…interestingly enough.
1962 – Illinois becomes the first state to decriminalize homosexuality.
1969 – Police raid the Stonewall Inn in New York, a popular gay bar. While raids on gay bars were common, the Stonewall raid gets out of hand and the crowd of gays from the neighborhood gathering outside grows violent. Angry protests against the New York police for targeting homosexuals go on for several days and represent the first major pushback from the gay community.
1970 – First march is held commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Subsequent “Gay Pride Parades” are held during the same time each year.
1973 – “Homosexuality” is removed from the DSM-II essentially declassifying it as a mental illness. The action is based largely on the research of Evelyn Hooker whose studies suggested homosexuals were no more maladjusted than straight people.
1978 – Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office as a member of the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors, is shot and killed along with the mayor. (Sorry if I am ruining the upcoming Gus Van Sant movie.)
1978 – First time the rainbow flag is flown as a symbol of homosexuality (but not time the rainbow symbol itself is used). It appears in San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade.
1982 – Wisconsin becomes the first state to ban discrimination based on homosexuality.
1993 – Brandon Teena, a Nebraskan woman passing as male, is murdered when associates discover she is anatomically female. The story makes national headlines.
1994 – After several revisions, Paragraph 175 is completely removed from German law.
1997 – South Africa becomes the first country to explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
1998 – In Wyoming, 21-year-old Matthew Shephard is beaten and murdered by two men who pose as gay in order to lure him into their truck. Shephard’s mother becomes an outspoken figure in the gay rights movement following her son’s death.
2003 – U.S. Supreme Court strikes down all anti-homosexual-specific laws.
2006 – Missouri decriminalizes homosexuality. (Yeah, I don’t understand this one, either.)
So why in the word did I throw up this huge long list of important events in the gay rights movement of the last hundred years or so? Because, while it may be the to the consternation of straight Mormons everywhere, the gay rights movement has made my life easier to live. Sure, it has complicated things by deepening the gay/Mormon rift I often feel (what doesn’t these days, right?), but it has also allowed me to come out of the closet and even maintain this blog without fear of arrest or physical harm. I owe a great deal of who and what I am to the gay rights movement, even if I don’t always agree with them. Because of those people who came before and stood up for what they believed, I don’t live a life of fear and hiding.
And for that, I am deeply grateful.