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Bigotry and hatred are not asleep. They still move around us. And if we are going to snuff them out, we must make the same defiant choice…to embrace the power of community and reject the temptation to come apart at the seams of our differences.”

-Brandon Wolf, Pulse Nightclub Survivor

The Long History of Homophobia


“The Lavender Scare was a period of intense persecution of suspected gays in government service in the late 1940s and early 1950s. [Douglas] Charles makes the obvious connection between the purging of gays, who were thought to be susceptible to blackmail, from government jobs and early Cold War-induced paranoia about possible security breaches.


He goes a step further, however, in discussing the conflation of homosexuality and communism as subversive forces in US society. Anticommunists, Charles notes, defined communist subversion “in terms of weakness, effeminacy, or softness” and such rhetoric echoed “the perception of gays in the United States of the 1950s…as a threat to manliness in hypermasculinzed, patriarchal US culture” He further drives home how, to the public, both gays and communists were nonconformists on the margins of US society…Unlike some politicians who openly embraced the public conflation of gays and communists, the FBI was careful to treat them as distinct threats.  Such distinctions did not, however, limit the Bureau’s involvement in the Lavender Scare. Tasked with limiting the potential for subversion, the FBI played an instrumental role in targeting and purging alleged homosexuals from government service.”


Michael Niemi
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“The Stonewall was a seedy gay club in New York’s Greenwich Village—the heart of the gay community. Like many such establishments in the city, it was run by the Mafia and subjected to regular police raids…As part of an investigation into mob activity, police raided the Stonewall on Tuesday, June 24 and then again in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 28. Although patrons were accustomed to periodic harassment, the second raid turned their mood ugly… A full-fledged riot ensued; during which police actually locked themselves inside the Stonewall for their own protection until riot police arrived and cleared the area.

…In the riot’s immediate aftermath, a group of young activists in New York organized the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which staged public protests and emphasized coming out of the closet as a transformative act, both because it made gay people publicly visible and because it allowed them to express their authentic selves. GLF activists demanded an end to police violence and fought against the stigma attached to homosexuals (a noteworthy result of which was the American Psychological Association declassifying homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973).”


Marc Arenberg
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“After the Stonewall Riots in 1969, LGBTQ activists across the country made significant civil rights advances and secured some municipal and state-level protections against discrimination in public employment. Roughly two dozen states had decriminalized sodomy by 1980, and some activists were already talking about the next frontier: legal recognition for marriage.


Almost at the exact time that HIV cases first began to pop up in Los Angeles and New York, the LGBTQ civil rights struggle faced a reactionary backlash led by figures like Anita Bryant and Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose “Moral Majority” inveighed against giving rights to gay people.


As the anti-gay reaction gained steam across America with the election of Moral Majority ally Ronald Reagan, activists found their demands for attention for a growing medical crisis were ignored.”


Tim Fitzsimons
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“Marked by a fear, on the part of the Thatcher and Reagan governments, that speaking directly to homosexuals could be seen as endorsing “deviant” homosexual behaviour, the often moralistic – and publicly-funded – health campaigns released during the peak of the Western AIDS crisis ignored the specific realities of those most affected by the epidemic.


Not only that, but health campaigns and news stories often played with metaphors that were not only deeply sexist and homophobic, but also inspired by the language of warfare.”


João Florêncio
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“As Matthew Holloway, a homosexual who works for a major financial institution in San Francisco, waited for his roommate outside a supermarket last December, a teen-age man and woman began to shout at him.

''We should kill you first, because you're gonna give us AIDS,'' Mr. Holloway said they shouted. He said that a few minutes later, as he and his roommate drove from the parking lot, they were attacked by the couple and a dozen other young people. His roommate, David Johnson, was dragged from the car and beaten with chains and skateboards. He suffered three broken ribs, a broken jaw and bruises. Mr. Holloway fought to stay in the car and was unharmed. The attackers fled before the police arrived; no suspects were arrested.”


William R. Greer (1986)
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The Long History of Homophobia

“In 1998, Tracie, there were two horrific crimes that happened that really captured the nation’s attention and the national consciousness. James Byrd, an African American man, was murdered in Jasper, Texas, by white supremacists. They kidnapped him. They beat him. They tied him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him for three miles before he was decapitated. It was a modern-era lynching.


Now, just a few months later, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked. He was tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die. That was October 1998. Now, why? He was gay….


Nearly 10 years after their murders, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Among other things, it added protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. And it expanded the reach of federal prosecutors.”


Jami Floyd & Tracie Hunte
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“The deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in U.S. history left 49 people dead and 53 people wounded as “Latin Night” was being celebrated at [Orlando, Florida’s Pulse Nightclub.]”


The Associated Press
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“Though clearly widespread, and far from confined to recent decades, violent attacks rooted in gender or sexuality are difficult to quantify. “In most countries, the absence of effective systems for recording and reporting hate-motivated violence, or ‘hate crimes,’ against LGBT persons masks the true extent of violence,” noted a United Nations report last year. “Where they exist, official statistics tend to understate the number of incidents.”


More than 20 percent of U.S. hate crimes in 2014 (the most recent year available) targeted people because of sexual orientation or gender, according to FBI statistics cited by the activist group Human Rights Campaign...The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville.


Christina Nunez
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“Meanwhile, coverage of trans people today has echoes of that of gay men in the early 1980s. Trans people are publicly debated yet tend to be excluded from these discussions – or face prejudice when they are included. The way they are often portrayed as a potential threat is reminiscent of the way gay men were smeared as threats to the public.”


Damien Ridge
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Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.

-Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644

The Long History of Homophobia

Marriage and Family


“[I]n the early 20th century a new ideal developed that marriage should be based not just on love but on mutual sexual attraction and satisfaction. Contradicting Victorian conventions, marital advisors now argued that "a satisfying sex life" was "essential" to a good marriage.

This validation of sexuality as a major component of a successful marriage was the second stage of the revolution in traditional marriage. Some people began to argue that if love was based on sexual attraction and satisfaction, the laws and prejudices against homosexual relationships should be rethought…But most early proponents of gay and lesbian rights still did not demand legal access to marriage, partly because many rejected the gender conventions on which heterosexual marriage was based, and also partly because few people yet believed that there was such a thing as an individual right to marry, even for heterosexuals.

…But toward the end of the 1970s and during the 1980s…American states and European countries repealed their "head and master" laws and rewrote legal codes so that they no longer ascribed different responsibilities and rights to husband and wife.

This final change, eliminating prescribed gender roles, made heterosexual marriage fairer and more egalitarian than ever before. But it also made marriage an institution that gays and lesbians could feel free to claim as their own…”


Stephanie Coontz
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Wedding Bands

“Lesbian and gay childrearing is increasingly visible in American culture, in television shows and films such as Modern Family and The Kids Are All Right. The popular media portray these families as a new phenomenon in American culture, part of a “lesbian and gay baby boom” that began in the mid-1980s.

But in fact, lesbians and gay men have parented children for generations since the Second World War.

Since the 1950s, the experiences and efforts of lesbians and gay men with children have laid the groundwork for what has now become a central focus on domestic and family rights in the modern LGBT freedom struggle. Much of the opposition to these rights in recent decades echoes the rhetoric of custody courts and state authorities that took children away from lesbian and gay parents in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as widespread cultural assumptions about what families should look like dating from the 1950s and 1960s…In the 1970s and 1980s, lesbian and gay parents organized and fought for their right to parent, bringing these issues to the forefront and eventually helping to pave the way for the…struggle for same-sex marriage.”


Daniel Rivers
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“Evan Wolfson is one of the architects of the marriage equality movement. In 1996, he was co-counsel in the same-sex marriage case in Hawaii. His court victory was overturned by a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.”


Terry Gross
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“[T]his big victory at the Hawaii Supreme Court leads to the Defense of Marriage Act, which is clearly a form of backlash against this significant, but local, victory in Hawaii. Then all of a sudden Congress and the President are preemptively defining marriage for one of the first times in federal law. And we see a slight hit to the polling support for gay marriage. Something similar happens in 2003 after the Massachusetts Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage: public opinion dips again, and you get an active push for a federal marriage amendment eventually supported by the Bush White House, and a blossoming of the state-level constitutional bans. And I think you can look at what happened in California in 2008, where the California Supreme Court orders that same-sex couples have the right to marry and, within six months, Proposition 8 has passed at the ballot box, taking away that right.”


Sasha Issenberg (interviewed by Isaac Chotiner)
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“Though gay marriage was already legal in six states and Washington, D.C., it had been granted each time by judicial fiat or legislative action -- voters had never yet endorsed same-sex marriage at the polls. That all changed on Election Day. On November 6 [2012], four states -- Maine, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota -- took the side of gay marriage in ballot referenda.”


Molly Ball
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“In [Windsor v. U.S.], the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma), which barred the federal government from ecognizing same-sex marriages.

Under [DOMA], for example, individuals in same-sex marriages were ineligible for benefits from federal programmes such as the Social Security pension system and some tax allowances if their partners died.

Another key case, Hollingsworth v Perry of 2013…argued that the Supreme Court should strike down a state law, called Proposition 8, which stated that marriage is between a man and a woman. The law, approved by California voters in 2008, overrode a state Supreme Court decision that allowed for same-sex marriage.”


BBC News
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“At some point, [Obergefell v. Hodges] had become inevitable…Beginning with Confucius and Cicero, he paused briefly at Alexis de Tocqueville to make his case that 'the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.' That is because “marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.” Denying it to same-sex couples 'has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects.'


But even those who find such flights annoying should read the opinion carefully, because it methodically tackles the issues the nation and the courts have debated over more than a decade—the history of marriage, its relationship to reproduction, and the need for “caution” in proclaiming such an important change.”


Garrett Epps
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Today is a momentous day in our history. It's a day when the Supreme Court of the United States lived up to the words inscribed above the front entrance of the courthouse: Equal Justice Under Law.

-Jim Obergefell

Workplace Discrimination


“It is notable that these nondiscrimination laws don’t exist in more states, as they are far more popular than support for legalizing same-sex marriage. Today, nearly seven in ten (69 percent) Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, compared to 25 percent who oppose such policies…With this kind of support, passing broad nondiscrimination laws would seem to be a political layup. But such laws have been strongly opposed by Republican leadership and religious conservatives at the federal, state, and local level. In 2007, the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) died in the Senate under threat of a Bush veto, and in 2014, despite bipartisan passage in the Senate, Speaker of the House John Boehner refused to bring the bill up for a vote.”


Robert P. Jones
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“The sex-discrimination provision of federal civil-rights laws has always been controversial, but it has become even more charged in recent years. Cases on this topic regularly bubble up through the court system, and some have made it to the top: …The Supreme Court planned to take up a high-profile case concerning a transgender student in Virginia, but punted when the Trump administration back-pedaled the Obama administration’s previous guidance on how to deal with this kind of issue in schools. Court battles over how to interpret “sex discrimination” have become a proxy war over LGBT rights.”


Emma Green
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“In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled…that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. The ruling was 6-3, with Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's first appointee to the court, writing the majority opinion. The opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal justices.

"Today," Gorsuch said, "we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear." He found such discrimination is barred by the language in the 1964 law that bans discrimination in employment based on race, religion, national origin or sex.

…"It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating ... based on sex," the justice wrote. He gave the example of two employees attracted to men — one male, the other female. "If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact that he is attracted to men," but not the woman who is attracted to men, that is clearly a firing based on sex, he said.”


Nina Totenberg
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“Though gay rights no longer has the potency to rally religious and conservative voters as it did a decade ago, activists on both sides believe it would be a mistake to consider the matter settled in the country’s culture wars. Social conservatives and legal groups have shifted their focus to transgender equality — with an emphasis on raising questions about access to public restrooms, eligibility to compete in youth sports and other issues they hope will strike Americans as going too far.”


Adam Nagourney and Jeremy W. Peters
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