Over the rainbow: A timeline of LGBT history

The LGBT community has made amazing strides recently, but we wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for the brave individuals who stood up for our community when no one else did. Our community has a rich history full of amazing stories of brave and inspiring individuals. Here’s an overview of some of their major accomplishments over the years, as well as some of the more recent developments in the movement. Hopefully these stories inspire you to make some change!


The Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, one of the earliest recorded transgender riots, took place in August, in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.



“The Los Angeles Advocate” is launched as a way to alert LA gay men to police raids at gay bars. Later re-named “The Advocate,” the magazine would go on to become the largest LGBT monthly magazine in America.



The Stonewall Riots take place on June 28 at the Stone Wall Inn, in NYC. This event is largely considered one of the most important events in moving the gay rights movement forward.



The nation’s first gay pride parade takes place in New York City.



Harvey Milk is elected city-council supervisor in San Francisco, becoming the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.

Harvey Milk


San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designs the original “rainbow flag,” which has since become the official symbol of the LGBT community.



The United States Democratic Party becomes the first major political party to endorse gay rights, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was founded by Steve Endean. The HRC is now America’s largest LGBT rights group.



Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the controversial bill banning gay and lesbian soldiers from openly serving in the U.S. military, passed this year.



Lawrence v. Texas, a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme court, ruled that laws banning “sodomy”—another word for same-sex sex—unconstitutional. This also made the selling of sex toys legal, an act previously banned in states with sodomy laws, like Texas.



Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed. Over 13,000 soldiers were discharged in the 17-plus years the law was in effect.



Barrack Obama becomes the first active United States President to express support for marriage equality.



Maine, Maryland and Washington become the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned same-sex marriage—unconstitutional and dismissed a case trying to uphold California’s Proposition 8, another anti-gay marriage law.

In total, nine states legalized marriage equality in 2013, for a total of 18 states with marriage equality.


This certainly isn’t a complete list of everything that the movement has achieved and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s good to celebrate and learn from our past achievements.

Want to get involved? Check out GLAAD’s website for info on how you can take action.

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