The history of LGBTQ rights in the United States is a long and complex one, with many milestones and setbacks along the way. From the first same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2004 to the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the LGBTQ community has made significant strides in achieving equality. The fight for LGBTQ rights began in earnest in the late 1960s, when the Stonewall Riots in New York City sparked a wave of activism. The Stonewall Inn was a popular gathering place for members of the LGBTQ community, and when police raided it in 1969, it sparked a series of protests that would become known as the Stonewall Riots.
This event is widely seen as the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. In the 1970s, several states began to pass laws that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 1973, Maryland became the first state to pass such a law, followed by California in 1975. In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in federal employment. This was followed by President Bill Clinton's 1993 executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in the military. In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as between one man and one woman and denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages. This law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
This was followed by several other states over the next decade, culminating in 2015 with a landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Since then, there have been several other victories for LGBTQ rights, including laws protecting transgender people from discrimination and allowing them to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The fight for LGBTQ rights is ongoing, but there have been many significant victories over the past few decades. From increased legal protections to greater acceptance and visibility, there is much to celebrate for members of the LGBTQ community. The timeline below outlines some of these key moments in LGBTQ history.