June 16th, 2004 Sarah Dougher | Special Section Stories
 

Gay Quickies

MOMENTS IN GAY HISTORY EVERY STRAIGHT PERSON SHOULD KNOW.

     
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In Oregon, Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to gay people on March 3, 2004.
IMAGE: STEPHEN VOSS
SEVENTH CENTURY BCE: SAPPHO

Sappho was a Greek poet who was born around 615 B.C.E. on the Aegean island of Lesbos--this is where we get the term "lesbian."

1948: KINSEY REPORT NOTICES WE'RE ALL A LITTLE GAY.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male reported that, rather than a God-given dichotomy, human sexuality traversed a slippery scale that encompassed the rainbow of human experience, straight to gay and everything in between.

1969: GAYS FIGHT THE POLICE AT STONEWALL INN.

From the 1930s onward, police regularly raided gay bars and arrested patrons. In 1969 patrons of the Stonewall Inn in lower Manhattan fought back, igniting a new militant activism for gay rights.

1973: APA DE-PATHOLOGIZES BEING GAY.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official manual of emotional and mental disorders, and the American Psychological Association concurred two years later.

1978: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF HARVEY MILK

Harvey Milk was a gay camera-shop owner in the early 1970s in the Castro district of San Francisco. A tireless grassroots organizer, he worked to build alliances across lines of race, gender and sexual orientation. He was elected in '77 to the S.F. Board of Supervisors and was murdered in his office, along with Mayor George Moscone, by former City Supervisor Dan White in 1978.

1981: AIDS, THE "GAY CANCER"

As early as '78, gay men in the United States and Sweden started showing signs of HIV infection. By '81, Kaposi's Sarcoma, a rare cancer, was recognized as "gay cancer" and "gay-related immune deficiency." The government was slow to respond to AIDS because of the sexual orientation of most of its victims, and the gay community suffered disproportionately from a disease to which any person is vulnerable.

1998: MATTHEW SHEPARD, KILLED FOR BEING GAY

A new American consciousness about the prevalence of gay-bashing came brutally to the front pages in October 1998, when 21-year-old college student Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die outside of Laramie, Wyo., for being gay.

2003: SODOMY LAWS RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY THE SUPREME COURT

Until last year, it was illegal to have oral or anal sex in more than a dozen states and Puerto Rico (some laws applied only to gays or to single people, but most applied to everyone). In its Lawrence v. Texas decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that such sodomy laws are unconstitutional.

MAY 17, 2004: MASSACHUSETTS BECOMES THE FIRST U.S. STATE TO LEGALLY MARRY GAY COUPLES.

Although the story is still unfolding, this historic act may well bring down the house of cards used to prop up discrimination for centuries.


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