Religious Tolerance logo

The gay liberation movement during the 1980s

horizontal rule

Sponsored link.

horizontal rule

bullet Mel Boozer, an openly gay candidate for vice-president, gave a speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention.

bullet Same-gender sexual behavior between male gays was decriminalized in Scotland.

bullet The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. This was six years after the American Psychological Association did the same thing. It was about three decades after researcher Evelyn Hooker conducted a study of gays and lesbians using standard psychological evaluation tests and proved that a homosexual orientation was not a mental illness.

bullet In July, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 26 cases of a very rare form of cancer, Kaposi's Sarcoma, was found in young gay men. This was later recognized as being due to the presence of AIDS.

bullet On JAN-28, The U.S. Department of Defense issued a policy stating that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.

bullet More than 1,300 athletes gathered in San Francisco during August and September, to participate in the first ever Gay Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee obtained an injunction prevented them from using the world "Olympics" in the name of their meeting.

bullet Wisconsin became the first state to prohibit anti-gay bias in housing, employment and public accommodations.

bullet Same-sex acts by male gays was decriminalized in Northern Ireland.

bullet 1983: Representative Gerry Studds (D-MA) became the first openly gay member of Congress. The following year, he was re-elected.

bullet Robert Bork led a panel of U.S. Court of Appeals in DC to rule that it is "impossible to conclude that a right to homosexual conduct is 'fundamental'."

bullet Two researchers -- one American and one French -- identified the HIV virus as the probable cause of AIDS.

bullet Rock Hudson died of AIDS. Suddenly, the disease became high-profile news.

bullet Hollywood released the Kiss of the Spider Woman, one of the first movies to portray a gay man in a positive light.

bullet The Department of Defense started to check all military personnel and recruits for HIV infection.

bullet President Reagan called for a reduction in spending on AIDS research.

bullet The Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, upheld the right of states to criminalize "sodomy" as defined in Georgia as oral or anal sex by anyone -- heterosexual or homosexual; married or not.  They ruled that: "The Constitution does not confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy." 1 About seventeen years later, during 2003, the same court overturned this ruling with an apology in Lawrence v. Texas.


Pope John Paul II approved a letter to the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church as written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. At the time, the Cardinal was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He later became Pope Benedict XVI. The letter said, in part:

"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. ... It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally. ... All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted." 2

The withdrawal of support hit chapters of Dignity support group particularly hard, because they had widely used church facilities to hold their meetings.

bullet A group of from 200,000 to 500,000 gays and lesbians participate in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This was the largest demonstration of its type in history up until that date.

bullet The head of the International Banana Association criticized PBS for a program that used a banana as a prop to demonstrate how a condom is applied.

bullet At about this time, the effort that had been poured into the gay and lesbian liberation movement began to be diverted into fighting the AIDS epidemic.

bullet The city of Baltimore, MD passed a civil rights bill that prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians.

bullet The first gay and lesbian studies department at a U.S. college or university was founded at the City College of San Francisco.


The United Church of Canada revised its membership rules to welcome gays and lesbians as members and as candidates for ordination. The resolution stated:

"A) That all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become full member of the Church.

B) All members of the Church are eligible to be considered for the Ordered Ministry."

bullet An internal Department of Defense report revealed that gay recruits are "just as good or better" than heterosexuals. The government unsuccessfully tried to suppress the document.

bullet The Governor of Massachusetts signed into law a bill that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination.

bullet The District of Columbia passed a hate crimes bill, which increases penalties for crimes motivated by homophobia.

bullet In October, Denmark became the first country to recognize same-sex partnerships.

horizontal rule

References used:

  1. "Bowers v. Hardwick," U.S. Supreme Court at:
  2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons," The Vatican, 1986-OCT-01, at:

horizontal rule

Copyright © 2002 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-JUL-23
Latest update: 2013-APR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

horizontal rule

Go to the previous page, or to the gay liberation/agenda menu, or choose:


Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.


Sponsored links