1950: In Los Angeles, gay rights activist Harry Hay founds America’s first national gay rights organization, the Mattachine Society. 1950: A Senate report states that homosexuals "constitute security risks" to the nation because "those who engage in overt acts of perversion lack the emotional stability of normal persons." (More than 4,380 gay men and women have been discharged from the military and around 500 fired from their jobs with the government.) 1952: The American Psychiatric Association lists homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. 1953: President Eisenhower signs an executive order, banning homosexuals from working for the federal government. 1958: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court rules in favor of the First Amendment rights of the magazine "One: The Homosexual Magazine." The suit was filed after the U.S. Postal Service and FBI declared it obscene material. 1950s
1962: Illinois repeals its sodomy laws, becoming the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexuality. 1964: At Independence Hall in Philadelphia, picketers begin staging the first Reminder Day to call public attention to the lack of civil rights for LGBT people. 1966: At a "sip-in" at a Greenwich Village bar, where the New York Liquor Authority prohibits serving gay patrons, participants are refused service. After a suit is filed, the NYC Commission on Human Rights grants homosexuals the right to be served. After transgender customers become raucous in a 24-hour San Francisco cafeteria, management calls police. When a police officer manhandles one of the patrons, she throws coffee in his face and a riot ensues. 1969: Patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village riot when police stage a 1 a.m. raid. Angry gay youth clash with aggressive police officers in the streets, leading to a three-day riot during with thousands of protestors but only minimal press coverage. Nonetheless, the event is credited with launching the modern gay rights movement. 1960s
1970: Christopher St. Liberation Day commemorates the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots\in what will be considered America's first gay pride parad 1973: The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. 1974: Kathy Kozachenko becomes the first openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council. 1977: Singer Anita Bryant leads a successful campaign with the "Save Our Children" Crusade to repeal a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida. 1977: Elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk introduces an ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from being fired. A year later, former colleague Dan White assassinates Milk and is convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Outraged by the leniency of the sentence, 5,000+ protesters ransack San Francisco's City Hall. 1979: An estimated 75,000 people participate in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. 1970s
1980: Democrats become the first political party to endorse a homosexual rights platform. 1981: The New York Times prints the first story of a rare pneumonia and skin cancer found in 41 gay men in New York and California. 1982: Wisconsin becomes the first U.S. state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 1987: AIDS advocacy group ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) forms and holds demonstrations against pharmaceutical companies profiteering from AIDS-related drugs and the lack of policies protecting patients from outrageous prescription prices. Hundreds of thousands of activists take part in the National March on Washington to demand that President Ronald Reagan address the AIDS crisis. (It until the end of his presidency that Reagan speaks publicly about the epidemic.) 1988: The World Health Organization organizes the first World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the spreading pandemic. 1980s
1989 Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art opens an NEA-funded show that includes Piss Christ. The Rev. Donald Wildmon attacks Piss Christ. NY Sen. Alphonse D’Amato calls for a review of NEA procedures, saying the issue is “not a question of free speech" but "of taxpayers' money." Rep. Dick Armey and 100 other members of Congress attack NEA support for the Mapplethorpe retrospective, The Perfect Moment, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art. Christina Orr-Cahill, director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, cancels the exhibition. The night of her announcement, activists project a selection of Mapplethorpe’s work on the Corcoran façade. The Washington Project for the Arts mounts The Perfect Moment. After failing to pass a a five-year ban on funding for the ICA and the Southeastern Center. Congress cuts the NEA budget by $45,000—the total that had gone to the two exhibitions. Congress bans NEA support for "materials which in the judgment of the NEA may be considered obscene, including depictions of sadomasochism, homo-eroticism, the sexual exploitation of children, or of individuals engaged in sex acts which taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." RIT Instructor Patti Ambrogi is accused of child pornography after exhibiting nude photographs of her twin daughters. No charges are filed.
1990 U.S. Customs officials confiscate a 30-year-old black-and-white self-portrait of Walter Chappell. The New Mexico photograph is sitting on the ground, his penis erect, and holding his baby son in his arms. A federal court strikes down the ban as unconstitutionally vague and in violation of the First Amendment. NEA chairman John Frohnmayer denies grants to Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes—all of whom had been recommended by the peer review panel. Miller, Fleck and Hughes deal with gay issues in their work, while Finley is an outspoken feminist. The “NEA Four” file suit against Frohnmayer and the NEA. In San Francisco, the FBI raids the studio of Jock Sturges and confiscates its contents. In Cincinnati, the local sheriff raids the Contemporary Arts Center, then showing the Mapplethorpe retrospective. Indictments are brought against museum director Dennis Barrie and the Arts Center itself on the charges of pandering obscenity and the use of a minor in nude materials. A jury acquits Dennis Barrie and CAC.
1991-1999 1993: The NEA settles out of court with the NEA Four and restores the grants. 1993: Detroit police raid the home and office of Wayne State Professor Marilyn Zimmerman, on suspicion that photographs of her three-year-old in the bath are child pornography. No charges are filed. 1993: After being fired from the CAC, Dennis Barrie moves to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Subsequently he served as curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington and today is working on the creation of the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.) 1994: Ejlat Feuer is arrested for child endangerment for making nude photographs of his six-year- old daughter for an art class. New Jersey authorities decide not to bring the case to trial. 1994: Arizona police raid an art gallery in Tucson and seize photographs of Robyn Stoutenburg's four-year-old son. 1999: NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cuts funding for the Brooklyn Museum unless it cancels a show that includes a portrait of the Virgin Mary stained with a clump of elephant dung. The US district court rules the city’s action a violation of the Museum’s rights under the First Amendment and orders Giuliani to restore the subsidy.
2010 Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Art opens at the National Portrait Gallery in October. In November, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution removed an edited version of footage used in David Woynarwicz’s film A Fire in My Belly after complaints from the Catholic League, Minority Leader John Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, and under threat of reduced federal funding.