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social sciences

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In 1970, feminist activists, including many lesbians, established the Atlanta Women's Liberation Center. Many of the lesbians working with the center felt both marginalized by straight feminists and alienated by gay men, and in 1972, some of these women formed the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA).

ALFA remained a major force in the Atlanta lesbian community for over two decades, organizing around issues of sexism, classism, racism, and other social issues. They also fielded the first openly lesbian softball team, the ALFA Omegas, in 1974, and published a newsletter, Atalanta, each month until the group disbanded in 1994.

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The 1980s and 1990s

Atlanta's gay community continued to grow and organize during the 1980s. Gay Pride officially became Lesbian, Gay, and Transgendered Pride in 1980. In 1981, the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus was founded, and in 1983, lesbians organized the first Dyke March. After refusing to sign a proclamation recognizing Gay Pride for several years, in 1984 Mayor Andrew Young finally issued a proclamation for "Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Day."

In 1985, many queer organizations joined forces in the Metropolitan Atlanta Council of Lesbian and Gay Organizations. The decade also saw the introduction of more gay publications, with ETC Magazine in 1985 and the still-extant Southern Voice, which began publication in 1988.

In the 1980s, Atlanta was the source of a significant legal battle that resulted in a crushing defeat for the national glbtq community. In 1982, Michael Hardwick and a partner were arrested in Hardwick's Atlanta home for engaging in consensual oral sex and charged with . Although the local district attorney decided not to pursue the case, Hardwick and his attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the Georgia statute. In 1986, in Bowers v. Hardwick, the United States Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, upheld the Georgia statute, dismissing the claim of a constitutional right to homosexual sex as "facetious." Although the Georgia statute was itself overruled by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1998 in a case involving heterosexual conduct, Bowers v. Hardwick remained intact until it was repudiated by the United States Supreme Court in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas.

In the 1980s, AIDS decimated the Atlanta gay male community, including the activist leadership. On one occasion, even the annual Gay Pride parade was canceled.

Gay visibility in Atlanta increased dramatically during the 1990s. While previous Gay Pride parades had drawn crowds of up to five thousand, in 1991, 20,000 people attended. In 1992, the number of celebrants increased to 40,000, and a year later, more than 100,000 people attended Gay Pride.

In 1997, Cathy Woolard became the first open lesbian to be elected to the Atlanta city council.

Atlanta also began to take its place in the larger queer movement, as the city hosted the National Lesbian Conference in April 1991. Nevertheless, the city has not yet emerged as a leader in the struggle for equality, which is somewhat surprising given its status as a major American media center.

The 1996 Summer Olympics brought thousands of visitors to Atlanta, and lesbian and gay activists began organizing as early as 1992 to use the public stage created by the games to protest Georgia's sodomy law and promote gay issues such as hate crime legislation and domestic partnership. A Gay and Lesbian Visitors Center welcomed queers from all over the world to the games and the city. An anti-gay resolution passed by neighboring Cobb County led to a boycott of the county by the Olympics Committee.

In 1998, gays hosted their own international sporting event, when the Hotlanta Softball League sponsored the Lesbian and Gay World Series.

In 2001, Cathy Woolard was elected president of the Atlanta city council.

Racial Divisions

Many in Atlanta pride themselves on their city's tolerance, dubbing it "the city too busy to hate." However, as elsewhere in U.S. society, there are deep racial divisions in Atlanta's queer community. Many gay and lesbian African Americans feel that their concerns are ignored by the white gay and lesbian community, while many white members of the glbtq community fear the of the politically powerful Black clergy in a predominantly African-American city.

A positive step toward bridging some of those divisions was taken at a January 2006 Black Church Summit organized in Atlanta by the National Black Justice Coalition. This historic event brought together members of the African-American clergy and gay and lesbian activists in order to strategize ways to fight homophobia within the Black spiritual community.

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