History Of Gay Men In The United States 1950-2000

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Two-spirit is a modern umbrella term used by some indigenous North Americans for Gender variant individuals in their communities. The presence of male two-spirits existed before European contact, and "was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples". According to Will Roscoe, male and female two-spirits have been "documented in over 130 North America tribes, in every region of the continent". Two-spirits might have relationships with people of either sex. According to Lang, female assigned at birth two-spirits usually have sexual relations or marriages with only females. However, in most tribes a relationship between a two-spirit and non-two-spirit was seen for the most part as neither heterosexual nor homosexual (in modern-day terms) but more hetero-normative; Partners of two-spirits have not historically viewed themselves as homosexual, and moreover drew a sharp conceptual line between themselves and two-spirits.

There were few openly gay European men in America currently, due to legal consequences as well as social ostracism. Anal porn was specifically prohibited by a statute passed in 1563 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and the English colonies in America were subject to this law. Since 1814 crime against nature has been used as a legal term in published cases in the United States, normally defined as a form of sexual behavior that is not considered natural and is seen as a punishable offence in dozens of countries and several U.S. states; this often included homosexual sex. Other sexual practices that have historically been crimes against nature include anal sex, as well as fellatio, bestiality, incest, miscegenation and necrophilia. The term is sometimes also seen as a synonym for sodomy or buggery. Legal punishments for sodomy often included lengthy prison sentences, fines, and hard labor. The first recorded police raid in American history on a gay bathhouse took place in New York City on February 21, 1903, when New York police raided the Ariston Hotel Baths. 26 men were arrested and 12 brought to trial on sodomy charges; 7 men received sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison. After all, police raids on gay hangouts and other examples of formal and/or informal harassment were common practice prior during the first half of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, there were some gay men who had an important impact on American history at this time, particularly literature. Walt Whitman, a prominent and influential American poet, is widely believed to have been gay or bisexual. In 1860 he published Calamus, a series of homoerotic poems, for which he was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior, though he quickly obtained a similar job in the Attorney General's office. Another important homoerotic book was published in 1870 by the American author Bayard Taylor, titled Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania. This book has been deemed the 'first gay novel' in America. It has also been noted for its enigmatic treatment of homosexuality. Roger Austen notes "In the nineteenth century Bayard Taylor had written that the reader who did not feel 'cryptic forces' at play in Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania would hardly be interested in the external movement of his novel." Another such work is Imre: A Memorandum, written in Europe by the expatriate American-born author, Edward Irenaeus Prime-Stevenson, who originally published it under the pseudonym of Xavier Mayne in a limited-edition imprint of 500 copies in Naples, Italy, in 1906. Imre: A Memorandum is the first American gay novel with a happy ending.

The first recognized gay rights organization in America, the Society for Human Rights, was founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago in 1924. It only existed for a few months before disbanding due to the arrests of several of the Society's members. Still, it was officially recognized due to having received a charter from the state of Illinois and produced Friendship and Freedom, the first American publication for gays.

The gay male community gained more visibility in 1948 with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey, a sexologist who was bisexual.

The book states, among other things, that 37% of the male subjects surveyed had at least one homosexual experience, and that 10% of American males surveyed were "more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55".

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In 1950, gay activist Harry Hay and several other men founded the Mattachine Society, the first enduring LGBT rights organization in the United States. The Mattachine Society was involved in two landmark gay rights cases in the 1950s. In the spring of 1952, William Dale Jennings, one of the cofounders of the Mattachine Society, was arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly soliciting a police officer in a bathroom in Westlake Park, now known as MacArthur Park. His trial drew national attention to the Mattachine Society, and membership increased dramatically after Jennings contested the charges, resulting in a hung jury. In 1958 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of ONE, Inc., a spinoff of the Mattachine Society, which had published "ONE: The Homosexual Magazine" beginning in 1953. After a campaign of harassment from the U.S. Post Office Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Postmaster of Los Angeles declared the October 1954 issue obscene and therefore unmailable under the Comstock laws. The magazine sued. The Supreme Court reversed the Postmaster's decision, marking the first time the Supreme Court had explicitly ruled on free press rights around homosexuality. The case is known as One, Inc. v. Olesen.

However, because the psychiatric community regarded homosexuality as a mental illness during the 1950s, gay people were considered susceptible to blackmail, thus constituting a security risk. U.S. government officials assumed that communists would blackmail gay employees of the federal government who would provide them with classified information rather than risk exposure. In 1950, the same year that Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed 205 communists were working in the State Department, Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy said that the State Department had allowed 91 gays to resign. McCarthy hired Roy Cohn — who some allege was a closeted gay man — as chief counsel of his Congressional subcommittee, which among other things investigated homosexuality in government employees. Together, McCarthy and Cohn were responsible for the firing of scores of gay men from government employment and strong-armed many opponents into silence using rumours of their homosexuality. On April 27, 1953, President Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, which banned gay men and lesbians from working for any agency of the federal government. It was not until 1973 that a federal judge ruled that a person's sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment, and not until 1975 that the United States Civil Service Commission announced that they would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case by case basis.

The Cooper Do-nuts Riot was a May 1959 incident in Los Angeles, in which gay men, lesbians, transgender women, and drag queens rioted, one of the first LGBT uprisings in the US. The incident was sparked by police harassment of LGBT people at a 24-hour cafe called "Cooper Do-nuts".

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As of 1960, every state had an anti-sodomy law. In 1961, the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code advocated repealing sodomy laws as they applied to private, adult, consensual behavior. A few years later the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took its first major case in opposition to these laws, Enslin v. Walford, which was denied certiorari by the Supreme Court.

Another significant case came in 1961, when astronomer Frank Kameny protested his firing by the U.S. Civil Service Commission due to his homosexuality, arguing this case to the United States Supreme Court. Although the court denied his petition, it is notable as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation. Kameny and fellow gay activist Jack Nichols also launched some of the earliest public protests by gays and lesbians with a picket line at the White House on April 17, 1965. In coalition with New York's Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, the picketing expanded to target the United Nations, the Pentagon, the United States Civil Service Commission, and to Philadelphia's Independence Hall for what became known as the Annual Reminder for gay rights.

In 1964, organized by gay activist Randy Wicker, a small group picketed the Whitehall Street Induction Center after the confidentiality of gay men's draft records was violated. This action has been identified as the first gay rights demonstration in the United States.

In 1965 the case Scott v. Macy, about how Bruce Scott was denied a Defense Department job because of "immoral conduct", was decided. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the charge was too vague, thus granting the first major court victory for gay employment rights. The case was argued by lawyer David Carliner December 17, 1964, and decided June 16, 1965.

Craig Rodwell, who had conceived of the Annual Reminder (which was led by Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings) went on to begin the pro-gay group Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN) in 1967. He also published its periodical, HYMNAL. On November 24, 1967, he founded the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in New York, the first bookstore devoted to gay and lesbian authors. Considering this and his work as the prime mover for the creation of the original pride parade (see below), Rodwell is considered by some to be quite possibly the leading gay rights activist in the early homophile movement of the 1960s.

Another important gay rights activist of the 1960s was Troy Perry. In 1968, after a suicide attempt following a failed love affair and witnessing a close friend being arrested by the police at the Black Cat Tavern (see below), Perry founded the Metropolitan Community Church. He put an advertisement in The Advocate, announcing a worship service designed for gays in Los Angeles. Twelve people came to the first service on October 6, 1968, and "nine were my friends who came to console me and to laugh, and three came as a result of the ad." After six weeks of services in his living room, the congregation shifted to a woman's club, an auditorium, a church, and finally to a theatre that could hold 600 within several months. In 1971, the Metropolitan Community Church's own building was dedicated with over 1,000 members in attendance.

There were also several protests of legal restrictions on gay bars in the 1960s. In 1966, the Mattachine Society staged a "Sip-In" at Julius Bar in New York City challenging a New York State Liquor Authority prohibition on serving alcohol to gays. The bartender initially started preparing the men a drink but then put his hand over the glass, which was photographed. The New York Times ran a headline the next day saying, "3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars". The Mattachines then challenged the liquor rule in court and the courts ruled that gays had a right to peacefully assemble, which undercut the previous state liquor authority contention that the presence of gay clientele automatically was grounds for charges of operating a "disorderly" premises. With this right, a new era of licensed, legally operating gay bars began. Julius Bar now holds a monthly party called Mattachine in remembrance of the protest. On January 1, 1967, there was a police raid on the Los Angeles gay bar Black Cat Tavern which led to months of protests and demonstrations. Inspired by this, The Advocate was first published in September of that year as a local newsletter alerting gay men to police raids in Los Angeles gay bars. The Advocate, which is still published, is the oldest and largest LGBT publication in the United States.

The modern LGBT civil rights movement began on Saturday, June 28, 1969, with the Stonewall Riots, when police raided a New York gay bar called the Stonewall Inn and the patrons fought back. Lesbian Martha Shelley was in Greenwich Village the night of the Stonewall Riot; she proposed a protest march and as a result, the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis sponsored a demonstration. Later that year, on November 2, 1969, Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy, and Linda Rhodes proposed the first gay pride parade to be held in New York City by way of a resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) meeting in Philadelphia.

"That the Annual Reminder, in order to be more relevant, reach a greater number of people, and encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle in which we are engaged-that of our fundamental human rights-be moved both in time and location. We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. No dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration. We also propose that we contact Homophile organizations throughout the country and suggest that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day. We propose a nationwide show of support.

All attendees to the ERCHO meeting in Philadelphia voted for the march except for Mattachine Society of New York City, which abstained. Members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) attended the meeting and were seated as guests of Rodwell's group, Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN).

Meetings to organize the march began in early January at Rodwell's apartment in 350 Bleecker Street. At first, there was difficulty getting some of the major New York City organizations like Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) to send representatives. Craig Rodwell and his partner Fred Sargeant, Michael Brown, Marty Nixon, Foster Gunnison of Mattachine, and Ellen Broidy made up the core group of the CSLD Umbrella Committee (CSLDUC). For initial funding, Gunnison served as treasurer and sought donations from the national homophile organizations and sponsors, while Sargeant solicited donations via the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, customer, mailing list and Nixon worked to gain financial support from GLF in his position as treasurer for that organization. Other mainstays of the organizing committee were Jack Waluska, Steve Gerrie, Judy Miller, and Brenda Howard of GLF. Believing that more people would turn out for the march on a Sunday, and so as to mark the date of the start of the Stonewall uprising, the CSLDUC scheduled the date for the first march for Sunday, June 28, 1970.

Notable gay writers of the 1950s and 1960s who explored male homosexuality in their work included James Baldwin, John Rechy and Allen Ginsberg. Another 20th-century writer, Gore Vidal, had a lifelong male partner but preferred not to categorize himself as gay. Vidal wrote about homosexuality in The City and the Pillar (1948) and transgenderism in Myra Breckinridge (1969). Mart Crowley's play Boys in the Band, about a group of gay male friends, was produced in 1968, then adapted into a ground-breaking film in 1970. Along with the liberalization of censorship laws, the 1950s and 1960s also saw the rise of Gay pulp fiction.

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With Dick Leitsch's replacement as president of Mattachine NY by "Michael Kotis" in April 1970, opposition to the first gay pride march by Mattachine ended. America's first pride parade was held in June 1970 in New York. There was nothing planned for the rally in Central Park since the group could not rely on making it the entire way. Yet as the original marchers left Christopher Street to walk uptown, hundreds, and then thousands, of supporters joined in. The crowd marched from Greenwich Village into uptown Manhattan and Central Park, holding gay pride signs and banners, chanting "Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud."

On the same weekend, gay activist groups on the West Coast of the United States held a march in Los Angeles and a march and 'Gay-in' in San Francisco.

One day earlier, on Saturday, 27 June 1970, Chicago Gay Liberation organized a march from Washington Square Park ("Bughouse Square") to the Water Tower at the intersection of Michigan and Chicago avenues, which was the route originally planned, and then many of the participants extemporaneously marched on to the Civic Center (now Richard J. Daley) Plaza. The date was chosen because the Stonewall events began on the last Saturday of June and because organizers wanted to reach the maximum number of Michigan Avenue shoppers. Subsequent Chicago parades have been held on the last Sunday of June, coinciding with the date of many similar parades elsewhere.

On May 18, 1970, two University of Minnesota gay student activists, Richard Baker and James Michael McConnell, applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis. The clerk of the Hennepin County District Court, Gerald Nelson, denied the request on the sole ground that the two were of the same sex. The couple filed suit in district court to force Nelson to issue the license. The couple first contended that Minnesota's marriage statutes contained no explicit requirement that applicants be of different sexes. If the court were to construe the statutes to require different-sex couples, however, Baker claimed such a reading would violate several provisions of the U.S. Constitution:

First Amendment (freedom of speech and of association), Eighth Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment), Ninth Amendment (unenumerated right to privacy), and Fourteenth Amendment (fundamental right to marry under the Due Process Clause and sex discrimination contrary to the Equal Protection Clause).

The trial court dismissed the couple's claims and ordered the clerk not to issue the license. Eventually, this case reached the Minnesota Supreme Court in Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310, 191 N.W.2d 185 (1971), in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a state law limiting marriage to persons of the opposite sex did not violate the U.S. Constitution. Baker appealed, and on October 10, 1972, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the appeal "for want of a substantial federal question". Because the case came to the Supreme Court through the mandatory appellate review (not certiorari), the dismissal constituted a decision on the merits and established Baker v. Nelson as precedent, though the extent of its precedential effect has been subject to debate. In May 2013, Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage and it took effect on August 1, 2013.

The Rev. William R. Johnson was an important gay religious figure in the 1970s. In 1972 the United Church of Christ ordained him at the Community United Church of Christ in San Carlos, California, making him the first openly gay person to be ordained as a minister in a mainline Protestant denomination. He founded the United Church of Christ Gay Caucus in 1972 (it is now the UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Concerns, aka "The Coalition"). He served as national coordinator for The Coalition from 1972-77.

The American Psychiatric Association held an annual meeting in 1972 titled "Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals? A Dialogue". The panel included, among others, "Dr H. Anonymous," a gay psychiatrist who appeared in disguise to conceal his identity. He was later revealed to be John E. Fryer. The outcome of that panel was that in 1973 the APA removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The UpStairs Lounge arson attack took place on June 24, 1973, at a gay bar located on the second floor of the three-story building at 141 Chartres Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Thirty-two people died as a result of fire or smoke inhalation. The official cause is still listed as "undetermined origin. The most likely suspect, a gay man who had been thrown out of the bar earlier in the day, was never charged. It was the deadliest arson attack in New Orleans and the deadliest attack on LGBT people in United States history. The reaction by the city and media following the attack was indifferent. Those seeking burial services for the dead were turned away by many churches, and several families refused to come forward to claim victims' bodies out of shame. While most news outlets ignored the story, mentions of the incident in editorials and talk radio made light of the tragedy, mocking the victims because of their sexual orientation.

A significant action of the gay rights movement in the 1970s was the creation of the Gay Pride flag by gay activist Gilbert Baker. Thirty volunteers had helped Baker hand-dye and stitch the first two flags for the parade. When Gilbert Baker raised the first Gay Pride flag at San Francisco Pride on June 25, 1978, it had eight colors, each with a symbolic meaning: Hot Pink: sexuality, Red: life, Orange: healing, Yellow: sunlight, Green: nature, Turquoise: magic/art, Blue: serenity/harmony, Violet: spirit.

First appearing around 1971 in San Francisco, visual codes signifying availability and preferences during cruising activities started to spread within the gay subculture in the 1970s, expanding on the existing handkerchief code by assigning meanings to more colors beyond the traditional red and blue. Further codes included keychains openly worn on a belt loop as well as earrings.

The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. occurred on October 14, 1979. The first such march on Washington, it drew around 100,000 gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people and straight allies to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation.

In 1978 Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, and the first openly gay or lesbian person to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. However, on November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who recently resigned but wanted his job back. In 1979, Stephen Lachs became the first openly gay judge appointed in the United States. He is also thought but not proved to be the first openly gay judge appointed anywhere in the world. He served as a judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court from 1979 to 1999.

John Ward founded GLAD in 1978 and filed its first case, Doe v. McNiff, that same year. GLAD is a non-profit legal rights organization in the United States. The organization works to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression. An early victory came in Fricke v. Lynch (1980), in which GLAD represented Aaron Fricke, an 18-year-old student at Cumberland High School in Rhode Island, who won the right to bring a same-sex date to a high school dance. GLAD is based in Boston, Massachusetts, and serves the New England area of the United States. Services it provides include litigation, advocacy, and educational work in all areas of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) civil rights and the rights of people living with HIV. The organization also operates a telephone hotline and website.

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The 1980s were significant for the AIDS crisis, which hit the gay male community especially hard.

At first the disease was unidentified. In the early 1980s, reports began surfacing in San Francisco and New York City that a rare form of cancer called Kaposi's Sarcoma was affecting young gay men. In the general press, the term "GRID", which stood for gay-related immune deficiency, was used to refer to the disease. However, after determining that AIDS was not isolated to the gay community, it was realized that the term GRID was misleading, and the term AIDS was introduced at a meeting in July 1982. By September 1982 the CDC started referring to the disease as AIDS. After the Centers for Disease Control declared the new disease an epidemic, Gay Men's Health Crisis was created in 1982 when 80 men gathered in New York gay activist Larry Kramer's apartment to discuss the issue and to raise money for research. The founders were Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Lawrence D. Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rapoport and Edmund White. At the time, it was the largest volunteer AIDS organization in the world. Paul Popham was elected as the first president.

Randy Shilts, who later died of AIDS, was one of the foremost reporters of the AIDS epidemic. He was hired as a national correspondent by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981, becoming the first openly gay reporter with a gay "beat" in the American mainstream press.

GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is a U.S. non-governmental media monitoring organization which promotes the image of LGBT people in the media. Before March 2013, the name "GLAAD" had been an acronym for "Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation," but became the primary name due to its inclusiveness of bisexual and transgender issues. Its stated mission, in part, is to "[amplify] the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively". Formed in New York City in 1985 to protest against what it saw as the New York Post's defamatory and sensationalized AIDS coverage, GLAAD put pressure on media organizations to end what it saw as homophobic reporting. Initial meetings were held in the homes of several New York City activists as well as after-hours at the New York State Council on the Arts. The founding group included film scholar Vito Russo; Gregory Kolovakos, then on the staff of the NYS Arts Council and who later became the first executive director; Darryl Yates Rist; Allen Barnett; and Jewelle Gomez, the organization's first treasurer. Some members of GLAAD went on to become the early members of ACT UP. In 1987, after a meeting with GLAAD, The New York Times changed its editorial policy to use the word gay instead of harsher terms referring to homosexuality. GLAAD advocated that the Associated Press and other television and print news sources follow. GLAAD's influence soon spread to Los Angeles, where organizers began working with the entertainment industry to change the way LGBT people were portrayed on screen.

Entertainment Weekly has named GLAAD as one of Hollywood's most powerful entities, and the Los Angeles Times described GLAAD as "possibly one of the most successful organizations lobbying the media for inclusion".

In 1985 Cleve Jones, a gay activist and Harvey Milk's former lover, conceived the idea of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at a candlelight memorial for Harvey Milk. In 1987 he created the first quilt panel in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman. The AIDS Memorial Quilt has grown to become the world's largest community arts project, memorializing the lives of over 85,000 Americans killed by AIDS.

Also in 1985, closeted gay actor Rock Hudson became the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness. He revealed he had AIDS shortly before his death, and his revelation had an immediate impact on the visibility of AIDS, and on the funding of medical research related to the disease. Shortly after his death, People reported: "Since Hudson made his announcement, more than $1.8 million in private contributions (more than double the amount collected in 1984) has been raised to support AIDS research and to care for AIDS victims (5,523 reported in 1985 alone). A few days after Hudson died, Congress set aside $221 million to develop a cure for AIDS." Organizers of the Hollywood AIDS benefit Commitment to Life reported after Hudson's announcement he was suffering from the disease; it was necessary to move the event to a larger venue to accommodate the increased attendance.

In 1987, Larry Kramer founded AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), an international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives. In March 1987, Larry Kramer was asked to speak at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer also posed a question to the audience: "Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?" The answer was "a resounding yes". Approximately 300 people met two days later to form ACT UP.

In all, since its discovery in the early 1980s, AIDS has caused nearly 30 million deaths (as of 2009). As of 2010, approximately 34 million people have contracted HIV globally. AIDS is considered a pandemic—a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading.

The 1980s were not all bleak. Openly gay men became more prominent in politics. The Socialist Party USA nominated an openly gay man, David McReynolds, as its (and America's) first openly gay presidential candidate in 1980. In 1983, Gerry Studds became the first openly gay member of the U.S. Congress. Studds was a central figure in the 1983 Congressional page sex scandal when he and Representative Dan Crane were each separately censured by the House of Representatives for an inappropriate relationship with a congressional page — in Studds' case, a gay relationship with a 17-year-old male. During the House Ethics Committee's investigation, Studds publicly acknowledged his homosexuality, a disclosure that, according to a Washington Post article, "apparently was not news to many of his constituents". Studds stated in an address to the House, "It is not a simple task for any of us to meet adequately the obligations of either public or private life, let alone both, but these challenges are made substantially more complex when one is, as I am, both an elected public official and gay." He acknowledged that it had been inappropriate to engage in a relationship with a subordinate, and said his actions represented "a very serious error in judgment". He won re-election in 1984. In 1987 Barney Frank became the first U.S. congressman to come out as gay of his own volition. Frank started coming out as gay to friends before he ran for Congress and came out publicly on May 30, 1987, "prompted in part by increased media interest in his private life" and the death of Stewart McKinney, "a closeted bisexual Republican representative from Connecticut"; Frank told The Washington Post after McKinney's death there was "An unfortunate debate about 'Was he or wasn't he? Didn't he or did he?' I said to myself, I don't want that to happen to me."

An important legal victory came in 1989 with the case Braschi v. Stahl Associates Co. In this case, it was ruled that a man's life partner was legally a family member as protected by rent control law. This case marked this first time an American appellate court (in this case the New York Court of Appeals) concluded that it was legally possible for a same-sex couple (in this case two men, Miguel Braschi and Leslie Blanchard) to constitute a family.

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On March 20, 1990, sixty LGBTQ people gathered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center in New York's Greenwich Village to create a direct-action organization. The goal of the unnamed organization was the elimination of homophobia and the increase of gay, lesbian and bisexual visibility through a variety of tactics. Group's breakthrough was at New York's Gay Pride parade when militant AIDS activists passed out to the assembled crowd an inflammatory manifesto, bearing the titles I Hate Straights! and Queers Read This! Within days, in response to the brash, "in-your-face" tone of the broadside, Queer Nation chapters had sprung up in San Francisco and other major cities. The name Queer Nation had been used casually since the group's inception, until it was officially approved at the group's general meeting on May 17, 1990.

There were several legal successes for gay men in the 1990s. Hawaii's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples was first challenged in state court in 1991 in Baehr v. Miike (originally Baehr v. Lewin) and the plaintiffs (a gay male couple, Patrick Lagon and Joseph Melillo, as well as two lesbian couples, Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel, and Antoinette Pregil and Tammy Rodrigues) initially met with some success. But Hawaii voters modified the state constitution in 1998 to allow the legislature to restrict marriage to mixed-sex couples. By the time the Supreme Court of Hawaii considered the final appeal in the case in 1999, it upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage, but same-sex marriage was legalized in Hawaii in 2013. In 1993 the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was enacted, which mandated that the military could not ask servicemembers about their sexual orientation or go on "witch hunts" to find and expel homosexual service members. However, until the policy was ended in 2011 service members were still expelled from the military if they engaged in sexual conduct with a member of the same sex, stated that they were gay, and/or married or attempted to marry someone of the same sex. In 1994, fear of persecution due to sexual orientation became grounds for asylum in the United States. In 1996, in the case Nabozny v. Podlesny, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that school officials violated the rights of an openly gay teenager, Jamie Nabozny, when they allowed others to harass him for his sexual orientation. This was the first judicial opinion in American history finding that a public school could be held accountable for not stopping antigay abuse.

In 1999 domestic partnerships were legalized in California — the first state to do so, and therefore, the first state to legally recognize same-sex relationships.

There was also one prominent political success for gay men in the 1990s. In 1994, President Bill Clinton considered James Hormel for the ambassadorship to Fiji, but did not put the nomination forward due to protests from Fiji officials. Gay male sexual acts were punishable with prison sentences in Fiji and Hormel's being open about his sexuality would stand in conflict with culture. Instead, Hormel was named as part of the United Nations delegation from the US to the Human Rights Commission in 1995, and in 1996 became an alternate for the United Nations General Assembly. In October 1997 Clinton nominated Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg, which had removed laws prohibiting consensual same-sex acts between adults in the 1800s. This appointment was the first nomination or appointment of an openly LGBT person from the US.

The International Bear Brotherhood Flag was created in 1995. There is debate over its creator, but Craig Byrnes claims to have created it. Bear is an affectionate gay slang term for those in the bear communities, a subculture in the gay male community with its own events, codes, and a culture-specific identity.

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Civil unions and same-sex marriages first became legally recognized in the United States in this decade. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to recognize civil unions. Several other states have legalized civil unions since. In 2004 San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom allowed city hall to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, all same-sex marriages done in 2004 in California were annulled. Later in 2008 Prop 8 illegalized same-sex marriage in California, but the marriages that occurred between the California Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and the approval of Prop 8 illegalizing it are still considered valid. In 2004, same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Massachusetts. In March 2004, same-sex marriage was legalized in part of Oregon, as after researching the issue and getting two legal opinions, the commissioners decided Oregon's Constitution would not allow them to discriminate against same-sex couples. The Chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners ordered the clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses. However, later that year, Oregon voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as involving one man and one woman. The same-sex marriages from 2004 were ruled void by the Oregon Supreme Court.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Connecticut in 2008. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa in 2009 and was legalized in Vermont in 2009. In 2008 the Coquille Tribe legalized same-sex marriage, with the law going into effect in May 2009.

In 2002, a lawsuit brought by Derek R. Henkle against the Washoe County School District (Nevada) ended in a settlement in which the district agreed to implement policies to support openly gay and lesbian students and to pay the plaintiff, a student who had complained of harassment and inaction on the part of school officials, $451,000 in damages.

Perhaps the most important court case ever for gay men was 2003's Lawrence vs Texas (539 U.S. 558). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in thirteen other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory. The court thus overturned its previous ruling on the same issue in the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick, where it had upheld a challenged Georgia statute and did not find a constitutional protection of sexual privacy.

Another important victory for gay men came when in 2009, due to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is signed into law, the definition of federal hate crime was expanded to include those violent crimes in which the victim is selected due to their sexual orientation; previously federal hate crimes were defined as only those violent crimes where the victim is selected due to their race, color, religion, or national origin.

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