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The gay liberation movement/agenda

The gay liberation movement during the 1970s


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Various Gay Liberation Fronts and Gay Activists Alliances were organized across the U.S. and Canada during the 1970s. They were often founded by students and located at a university or college . Members were typically young -- under 30 years of age.

A number of U.S. states repealed sexually restrictive laws during this decade -- laws that had criminalized same-sex behavior as misdemeanors or felonies. These laws were called by various names: anti-sodomy, unnatural intercourse, crimes against nature, sexual misconduct, "abominable crime of buggery" laws, etc. Many had been placed on the books during colonial times or the Victorian era. Many banned all anal and oral intercourse, whether performed by gays, lesbians, heterosexual singles or even married heterosexual couples. The laws were repealed in: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming during this decade. 1

Harvey Milk (1930 - 1978) became the first openly gay man to run for office in California in 1977. Ironically, this occurred in San Francisco, CA where same-sex behavior was a criminal act punishable by up to ten years in prison. He played a leadership role in organizing the homosexual community in San Francisco, where one out of every three or four voters was gay. He was assassinated by a fanatic.

Other events:

  • 1970: On June 28, the first anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the first U.S. lesbian and gay pride march took place.
  • 1972:
    • An ABC made-for-TV movie "That Certain Summer" featured Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen as a gay couple. That is believed to be the first same-sex couple in a TV program.
    • The United Church of Christ became the first U.S. mainline/liberal church to ordain an openly gay man. He was William Johnson.
  • 1973: In November, Kathy Kozachenko became the first openly gay candidate to run for office in the U.S. she was elected to the City Council of Ann Arbor, MI.
  • 1974:
    • The American Law Institute updated its Model Penal Code. This is a group of laws that they suggest be implemented at the state level. They recommend to legislators: "that private sexual behavior between consenting adults should be removed from the list of crimes and thereby legalized. In 1974, the American Bar Association expressed its approval of the Model Penal Code.
    • The membership of the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
    • The first International Gay Rights Conference was held in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • 1975: The Vatican said that homosexual orientation (feelings) were not wrong, because one's orientation is not a matter of choice; it is something that is not chosen. However, they stated that to act upon one's feelings by engaging in a homosexual act is a sin, whether it be in a casual or in a committed relationship.
  • 1976: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (in the US) stated that "homosexuals...should not suffer prejudice against their basic human rights. They have the right to respect, friendship and justice."
  • 1977:
    • Anita Bryant, was a runner-up in the 1958 Miss America contest, a Southern Baptist, and spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission. Incensed by a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, FL, passed in 1977, she launched a successful campaign for its repeal in June of that year. This triggered a spontaneous march by gays, lesbians and their supporters in San Francisco -- the first of many. Webmaster "Uncle Donald" commented: "She ripped open the closet door that society had held shut for centuries. She put the 'gay' issue on the front pages of every newspaper. The controversy became a hot item on TV and radio news, and was discussed at cocktail parties and at the dinner table. We had become 'newsworthy' and the pace of our progress quickened. Today, it is no longer a question of 'IF' we will achieve equality, but 'When.' Thank You, Anita!" 2 The Dade County gay rights ordinance has since been restored.
    • The United Church of Christ became the first U.S. mainline/liberal church to ordain an openly gay woman. She was Anne Holmes. 
  • 1978: On NOV-27, Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated at City Hall in San Francisco. That evening, a candlelight march was held from the Castro District to City Hall. The march became an annual event.
  • 1979: The second gay riot in the U.S. occurred on May-21, when the murder of Harvey Milk received a light jail sentence. It became known as the "White Night Riot."

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References used:

  1. " 'Crime' and Punishment in America: State-by-State Breakdown of Sodomy Laws," at: http://www.aclu.org/
  2. "Uncle Donald," "SAVE OUR CHILDREN: Anita Bryant's 1977 Anti-Gay Campaign," at: http://www.backdoor.com/

Copyright © 2002 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-JUL-23
Latest update: 2008-AUG-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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