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Gay rights

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The gay rights movement seeks acceptance for homosexuality and homosexual persons. The movement seeks various changes in public perception as well as in law to provide the same rights to homosexuals as are provided to heterosexuals; some of these changes are controversial.

Gay rights activists dismiss as irrelevant, misguided or malicious views that portray homosexuality as a sin or a perversion. They do not believe that one's sexual orientation might be affected by human volition, referring to homosexuality and heterosexuality equally as unchangeable sexual orientation. Thus they generally are adamant in opposing reparative therapy as well as religious ministries that claim to help volunteers "transition" from homesexuality to heterosexuality.

History and accomplishments

The gay rights movement arose in response to what many activists called discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals.

One of the first (possibly the first?) gay rights activism was centered around Magnus Hirschfeld in pre-World War II Berlin, Germany. The gay rights movement in Germany was almost completely obliterated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement (See Homosexuals in Nazi Germany and Night of the Long Knives.)


In the United States, there were some initial steps toward a gay rights movement with the formation of the Mattachine Society and the publications of Phil Andros[?] in the years immediately following World War II. Also during this time frame Sexual Behavior in the Human Male[?] was published by Alfred Kinsey, a work which was one of the first to look scientifically at the subject of sexuality. Kinsey's incredible assertion, backed by a great deal of research, that approximately 10% of the population was homosexual, was in direct opposition to the prevailing beliefs of the time. Before its publication, homosexuality was not a topic of discussion, generally, but afterwards it began to appear even in mainstream publications such as Time Magazine, Life Magazine, and others.

Despite the entry of the subject into mainstream consciousness very little actual change in the laws or mores of society was seen until the 1960s, the time of the "Sexual Revolution". This was a time of major social upheaval in many social areas, including views of sexuality.

These works, along with other changes in society such as huge migrations to the cities following the War, began to build gay communities in urban centers, and gay people began to have a sense of themselves as a minority group rather than just a few isolated "inverts". While gay bars existed even in the early 20th century, they were very few.

With the rise of the gay community, gay bars became more and more common, and the sense of gay identify strengthened during the 1950s and 1960s. Gay people became less and less accepting of their status as social outcasts and criminals. However, they had little or no political and social power until the late 1960s.

However, the Stonewall riots of 1969 are considered to be the starting point for the modern gay rights movement, when all of these relatively underground changes reached a breaking point, and gay people began to organize on a large scale and demand legal and social recognition and equality.

The aftermath of the Stonewall riots saw the creation of the Gay Liberation Front[?] (GLF) in New York City. The GLF's 'A Gay Manifesto[?]' set out the aims for the fledgling gay liberation movement. Chapters of the GLF would then spread to other countries. These groups would be the seeds for the various modern gay rights groups that campaign for equality in countries around the globe.

Today, defending homosexuals against homophobia and gay-bashing and other forms of discrimination is a major element of American gay rights, often portrayed as intrinsic to human rights. Indeed, the most powerful gay rights group is called the Human Rights Campaign[?]. Other gay rights organizations include PFLAG[?] and GLAAD[?].

The movement has been successful in some areas. Sodomy laws were repealed or overturned in most states of the United States in the late twentieth century, and all were ruled unconstitutional in the July 2003 ruling on Lawrence v. Texas. Many companies and local governments have clauses in their nondiscrimination policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In some jurisdictions in the U.S., gay bashing is considered a hate crime and given a harsher penalty.

The U.S. state of Vermont, the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia, and some European countries provide the civil union as an alternative to marriage. The Netherlands and Belgium allow same-sex marriage; Canada recognizes common-law marriages between persons of the same sex, and a recent court ruling of the Ontario and Quebec Supreme Courts will require the federal government to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples within two years. Gay people are now permitted to adopt in some locations, although there are fewer locations where they may adopt children jointly with their partners.

In the cultural arena, similar changes have taken place. Positive and realistic gay characters appear with increasing regularity in television programs and movies.

The main opponents of the advances of the gay rights movement in the US have, in general, been the Christian right and other social conservatives, often under the aegis of the Republican Party.

On March 4, 1998 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also applied when both parties are the same sex.

See also:

Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform

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