The first discrimination against an alleged homosexual was recorded in 1624. Today the society is split in two on the topic of gay rights. And although the scale is tipping towards the side of acceptance in the more recent studies, the scale has not always been in the LGBT communities favor. The Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life article from 2017 states “…in polling in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%.” Then continued with “Based on polling in 2017, a majority of Americans (62%) support same-sex marriage, while 32% oppose it.”
Just by these polls done only sixteen years apart we can tell that there has been a radical change in the amount of support that the LGBT community has now in 2019. However, that does not mean that the whole country supports this movement. As with any other movement against the so called “societal norm,” there has been plenty of growing pains for the country through the more recent decades. Not only were there killings of male homosexuals in the past, they also crucified and trialed women who were caught together. The first lesbian that caught the wrath of the courts was Elizabeth Johnson in 1642 for messing around with another maid or as they called it “unseemly practices with another maid attempting to do that which man and woman do.”
But hey, maybe times have changed. Maybe there is more acceptance. Maybe things won’t go well with the new laws put in place. Maybe the riots and violence will never end. Or maybe it will. The fact of the matter is that there are two sides to every story, argument, and fight. One hand is made up of supporters that have fought for as long as this flame has been burning. On the other hand are people who are avidly trying to put that fire out. The different lights that this battle can be fought in are extensive. The stances most frequently taken are the religious and political.
Since the Pew Research Center happens to be a religiously affiliated center, I found it interesting that they would even take on a study that had any connection to gay or lesbian information. This fact alone tells us that the world as we know it is changing. This article they put together called “Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage: Public opinion on same sex marriage” not only went into detail about different attitudes as a whole country, but dug deeper to compare attitudes from different religious affiliations, generations, political parties, political ideologies, race, and gender. A few decades ago a religious affiliated company would not have had anything to say on the matter more than simply “no.” The studies found that the acceptance is widely growing across not only religions but society as a whole. There are always exceptions for those who are still on the “no “side of this argument, however.
Looking back on the history of civil rights for lesbian and gay couples there has been an extensive battle between society and the community. Even in the more recent decades, like the years 2000- 2010, there was squabbling among the country to do everything in its power to turn the country against the idea of gay and lesbian marriage. After Massachusetts decided that the ban on gay and lesbian marriage violated the constitutional rights of those couples, they legalized it in 2003. This was the first state that legalized this type of marriage in the United States. This legalization threw the country into a tailspin. In the 2004 presidential elections there was a huge movement put in place by the Christian Right side of the country.
Before 2005, seventeen states responded to this legalization in Massachusetts by voting in amendments to their constitutions to prohibit the same from happening in to them. One source stated that “Eleven of the seventeen states that amended their constitutions before 2005 did so with language that sweepingly prohibits any ‘legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage’ (Kentucky) or ‘a legal status for relationships or unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage’(Ohio).” The measures that were taken against the movement to legalize gay marriage in the current century were overwhelmingly harsh at some points, but rightfully so since this was a real fear that people dealt with. Society did not understand fully the issue at hand.
The reason that this was such a big movement for so may people had to do with the fact that not only were people being told how to live, but who to love, and on top of that were having their basic civil rights being taken away. This issue was fought with just as much vigor as the African American threw at the government and society to get their voices heard to gain equality. Many people fought and died for this cause the same as Martin Luther King Jr. did for his cause.
Fast forwarding through the years to the 20th century, through the wars fought with women dressing as men and men dressing as women, through the hiding and secrecy of homosexuals lives, through the degrading treatment of those who were caught, through the torturous torment that this part of America had to endure whether hiding or out, through the pain and the sorrow felt by individuals that were to afraid of the repercussions to march with the small groups trying to form, and the shame felt by all those made to feel that they were “not normal” or “gross” and “unworthy.” The 20th century proved to be the starting point for the LGBT community to gain some ground, working toward what every human wants; equality. The first known gay rights organization was founded in the year 1924 in Chicago. In contrast to the World War II role that the African Americans played, the LGBT community was drafted into the mobilization of World War II, however homosexuality was not accepted in the military at that time.
There was call for more ridged screening processes due to homosexuals being drafted without the knowledge of the personnel that were screening them. By 1942 there were psychologists working with the military to identify “homosexuals” that needed to be disqualified to fight for their country, but not only were they doing this in the military, they also fired a very wide range of persons from the federal government for “suspected homosexuality.” More that 1,200 people lost their jobs because of this. It wouldn’t be until 1957 that the Navy came out with a report that said there is no evidence that a homosexual could not preform and that they are not a security risk to the military, but this report was repressed until the year 1967. The first march on Washington was in 1979 in which over 100,000 people supported this cause of gay and lesbian rights. In the year 1982 Wisconsin passed the first lesbian and gay civil rights bill which prohibited the bias in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
The reason that this history plays an important key part in the legalization of gay marriage is that the fight to even be accepted as a person was hard enough as a homosexual, but then taking on the issue of having civil rights proved to be a rigorous fight. The first state to legally recognize gay or lesbian unions was Vermont in 2000. As stated, 2004 would be the first year that the first state in the united states legalized gay and lesbian marriage and it would not be until four years later that the second state of California would follow in the footsteps of Massachusetts. There were some struggles along the way. One being the Stone Wall Inn in New York City. This was a bar where the police set a raid in the year 1969. To the police personnel’s surprise, the raid turned into a riot and the street filled with the citizens of the city. Today this site is known as a National Historical Landmark by the National Parks Service. This includes the bar, the streets where the riot took place and Christopher Park.
Since the first recorded “homosexual act” there have been people behind this movement. Decades? No, we are not talking decades here, we are talking centuries. Alongside others who have been oppressed, like the African American community, our battles will not be won until all in the world believe us when we say “we deserve to live like everyone else.” Today it is easier for the LGBT community to be out and not have to hide. The battle for gay marriage being legalized was a battle valiantly fought and won by many people, not just the community alone.
Everyone should have the right to live the way they want to, to love who they want to, and to be who they want to. There should be no discrimination against races, genders, sexuality, or the disabled. America was founded on the thought of freedom and even though when America came to be there was no freedom for a lot of people living in America, I feel that today we can proudly say that although prejudice still exists, we the people will continue to fight for the right to be ourselves and one day in the future we will not have to fight anymore.
- “Stonewall National Monument.” National Park Service , 9 Aug. 2018, www.nps.gov/places/stonewall-national-monument.htm.