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Gay Rights Movement, U. S.  
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Movements advocating the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or people in the U. S. developed after World War II and have grown in size, diversity, and visibility since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Central to these movements has been "identity politics," by which individuals adopt the very category used to deny them equality and organize as members of a minority group around that category.

Like women of all races or nonwhites of both sexes, homosexuals have routinely experienced legal discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, and health care, and have been victims of harassment and violence. The movements of the 1950s and 1960s laid important foundations for addressing this situation by forming the first groups and publications to last, and by devising ideas and strategies that have been used since that time in the struggle for glbtq equality.

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Stonewall and Its Aftermath

In 1969, after a routine police raid on a gay bar turned into riots lasting for days, "gay rights" activism gained vitality and new directions. Over the next thirty years advocates addressed a remarkable range of issues, withstood setbacks from opponents and challenges from within, and gradually became more inclusive in defending the diversity of human sexuality and gender expression.

Within a month after the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, activists in New York City founded the Gay Liberation Front, and adopted a more radical stance than the rights movement had theretofore done, at least in its call for a politics of coalition with other oppressed groups. There was also a new emphasis on coming out and on "Gay Pride" and "Gay Power" and an impatience with the more assimilationist goals embraced by homophile groups in the previous decades.

However, by the time Stonewall was commemorated in the first Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (June 28, 1970), some GLF members had formed the Gay Activists Alliance in order to work only on gay rights and did so through both traditional methods (voting, lobbying) and newer strategies, like "zapping" officials in public to confront them on their stance on gay rights.

To some degree, "gay rights" and "gay liberation" were both complementary and contradictory: rights could be viewed as a step to liberation, but many liberationists saw equal rights as a limited goal that did not address the fundamental problems in American society, such as , sexism, racism, and poverty.

Among the critics of gay rights were lesbian feminists, who not only insisted on the inclusion of lesbians in any movement but also developed significant political theory that targeted patriarchy as the basis of both sexism and homophobia. Lesbian feminists of the 1970s formed groups such as Lavender Menace and Radicalesbians and some, such as the Furies in Washington, D. C., lived their politics in cooperatives.

The differing directions of thought and activity in the decade after Stonewall seemed only to strengthen efforts for gay and lesbian rights. Within a few years the movement developed in conjunction with thriving and open gay and lesbian communities, stimulated an explosion of organizing, and could claim many victories.

In 1973 Bruce Voeller, Nathalie Rockhill, and others founded the National Gay Task Force ("Lesbian" was later added to the title), the first national gay rights group in the U. S. Its agenda was a combination of older and newer goals: it continued the struggle begun in the 1950s to change psychiatry's view of homosexuality as an illness while working for anti-discrimination laws at all levels of government.

The former goal was accomplished in 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the same year the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund was founded and has been an important legal advocacy group for glbtq people ever since. By the end of the 1970s activists began to see progress in the form of ordinances protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination in about forty communities across the country.

Openly lesbian and gay candidates were also winning elections in some areas and at least four new organizations emerged: the Gay Rights National Lobby (1976), the National Gay Rights Advocates (1976), the Lesbian Rights Project (1977; later, National Center for Lesbian Rights), and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (1978).


However, at the very time activists had reason to celebrate their progress a growing backlash was developing. The New Right, new in its fusion of fundamentalist Christian values with conservative politics, fought back against not only "the gay agenda" for equality but sought to turn back the clock on issues such as affirmative action and reproductive rights.

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