The History of LGBTQ+ Rights and Activism

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and other identities. This term is used to encompass a wide variety of identities and gender expressions, and it is important to recognize that the movement for LGBTQ+ rights has been ongoing for many decades. In this article, we will explore the history of LGBTQ+ rights and activism, from early movements to the Supreme Court rulings of the 2010s and beyond.

Early Activism

One of the earliest forms of LGBTQ+ activism was the Homophile Movement of the 1950s. This movement was a political and social effort to achieve greater acceptance for LGBTQ+ people. In the following decade, the Stonewall Riots of 1969 were an important milestone in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. This event served as a catalyst for the Gay Liberation Movement and the first Pride marches.


The Gay Liberation Movement of the 1970s was an important step forward for LGBTQ+ rights. This movement was a broad-based effort to fight for civil rights and to challenge the stigma and discrimination that LGBTQ+ people faced. During this time, the first Pride parades were held, and numerous LGBTQ+ organizations were formed, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay Activists Alliance.


The 1980s saw the emergence of the AIDS crisis, which had a devastating impact on the LGBTQ+ community. In response, many LGBTQ+ advocates and organizations mobilized to provide support and to fight for greater recognition and rights. This decade also saw the growth of organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Lesbian Avengers, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.


In the 1990s, the US government implemented the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which banned openly LGBTQ+ individuals from serving in the military. This policy was widely criticized by LGBTQ+ activists, and it was eventually repealed in 2011. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages. This act was also opposed by LGBTQ+ advocates, who continued to fight for equality and recognition.


The 2000s saw the first legalizations of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2003 and in other states in subsequent years. This was a major victory for LGBTQ+ rights, and it paved the way for further progress. During this decade, numerous LGBTQ+ advocacy groups continued to fight for equality and recognition, such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.


The 2010s saw a number of landmark Supreme Court rulings that were favorable to LGBTQ+ rights. In 2015, the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalized same-sex marriage in all states and territories. This ruling was a major victory for LGBTQ+ advocates and organizations. Additionally, this decade saw a growth in support for LGBTQ+ rights, with numerous advocacy groups continuing to fight for equality and recognition.


The 2020s have already seen numerous challenges for LGBTQ+ rights, such as the banning of transgender individuals from serving in the military. Despite these challenges, LGBTQ+ activists are continuing to fight for greater rights and recognition. Organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National LGBTQ Task Force are at the forefront of the fight for equality.


The history of LGBTQ+ rights and activism has been long and complex, and it has seen many triumphs and setbacks. While there is still much work to be done, the progress that has been made in recent years is a testament to the power of LGBTQ+ activism. With continued support and advocacy, the future of LGBTQ+ rights looks brighter than ever.


Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). History of LGBTQ+ Rights. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from

National Center for Transgender Equality. (n.d.). History of Transgender Rights. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from

National LGBTQ Task Force. (n.d.). History of LGBTQ Activism. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from

Knowledge Base

When was the first display of LGBTQ+ pride?

On September 19, 1964, the inaugural public show of support for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States was held outside the U.S. Army Building in Lower Manhattan. Led by Randy Wicker, a coalition of gay men, lesbians, and their straight allies marched in solidarity to voice their opposition to the military’s unfair practices towards the LGBTQ+ community.

What makes LGBT History Month special?

Celebrating LGBT History Month is a great opportunity to recognize the immense contributions that the LGBT community has made to our culture and society. Through recognizing and embracing our shared histories, we can all come together to celebrate the accomplishments of the LGBT community and build a brighter future.

What was the origin of LGBTQ History Month?

LGBTQ History Month was initiated in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, an enthusiastic high school history teacher in Missouri. Then, in 1995, a resolution was passed by the National Education Association, officially incorporating LGBTQ History Month into the list of commemorative months.

What does the ‘QIA+’ in LGBTQIA+ stand for?

The ‘QIA+’ in LGBTQIA+ stands for Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Asexual/Ally/Aromantic. Image of What does the in Lgbtqia+ stand for? Click the link to learn more!