15 Milestones On the Road to LGBT Equality
At Ben & Jerry’s we’ve been saying “Love who you love” for a while now. And on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court finally agreed with us! As we look forward to what LGBT equality means beyond marriage equality, we’re also taking a look back at the long and winding road of LGBT history in the United States. From pop culture to legislation and Hollywood to riots, LGBT history is rich with challenges and triumphs.
THE LAVENDER SCARE
In 1950, a Senate report titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government” stated that since homosexuality was a mental illness, anyone who was gay posed a security risk to the nation. Over 4,380 gay men and women were discharged from the military and around 500 were fired from their government jobs. That purging came to be known as “The Lavender Scare”.
THE STONEWALL RIOTS
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1967, a raid of the popular gay bar the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village sparked the infamous Stonewall Riots. The bar had been a frequent target of raids by police who were trying to make the neighborhood free of “sexual deviants”. Angry gay patrons had had enough and clashed with police in the streets. The three-day riots have been credited with reigniting the modern LGBT rights movement.
PSYCHIATRISTS COME TO THEIR SENSES
On December 15, 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
On November 8, 1977, Harvey Milk won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was responsible for introducing a gay rights ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs. He also led a successful campaign against Proposition 6, an initiative forbidding homosexual teachers.
NATIONAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON
On October 14, 1979, an estimated 75,000 people participated in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. LGBT people and straight allies demanded equal civil rights and urged the passage of protective civil rights legislature.
THE EMERGENCE OF AIDS
On July 3, 1981, The New York Times printed the first story of a rare pneumonia and skin cancer found in 41 gay men in New York and California. The CDC initially referred to the disease as GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency. When the symptoms were found outside the gay community, Bruce Voeller, biologist and founder of the National Gay Task Force, successfully lobbied to change the name of the disease to AIDS.
In 1987, AIDS advocacy group ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) formed in response to the devastating affects the disease had on the gay community in New York. The group held demonstrations against pharmaceutical companies profiteering from AIDS-related drugs, as well as the lack of AIDS policies protecting patients from outrageous prescription prices.
HOLLYWOOD MEETS PHILADELPHIA
Hollywood brought gay issues and homophobia to the big screen in the movie Philadelphia. The AIDS drama won Tom Hanks his first Best Actor Oscar, and in his memorable acceptance speech he remarked, “The streets of Heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each of the red ribbons we wear here tonight.”
ELLEN AND WILL & GRACE
In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out on her popular television show and on that now-famous TIME magazine cover, declaring “Yep, I’m Gay”. Will & Grace premiered a year later and went on to be the first long-running gay sitcom, winning 16 Emmy Awards.
CIVIL UNIONS (HOORAY, VERMONT!)
On April 26, 2000, Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to legalize civil unions and registered partnerships between same-sex couples.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY (HOORAY, MASSACHUSETTS!)
On May 18, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. The court finds the prohibition of gay marriage unconstitutional because it denies dignity and equality of all individuals.
THE MATTHEW SHEPARD ACT
On October 28, 2009, The Matthew Shepard Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. The measure expands the 1969 U.S. Federal Hate Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
YAY VERMONT AGAIN!
On April 6, 2009, Vermont legalizes gay marriage. Ben & Jerry’s celebrates by renaming Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby!
BUH BYE “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”
On December 18, 2010, the U.S. Senate votes 65-31 to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Military.
LOVE WHO YOU LOVE
On June 26, 2015 The United States Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
We've come a long way, America. And whether you're a member of the LGBT community or an ally, that progress is something to be proud of. At Ben & Jerry's, we're proud to have been a part of this movement since our earliest days, and we don't plan on leaving it anytime soon. Join us in continuing to support LGBT equality by checking out what our friends at the Human Rights Campaign are up to.