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Timeline on the gay rights movement

A look at key moments over the past 50 years in the advancement of gay rights in the United States.

March 24, 2013



• 1960: All 50 states have anti-sodomy laws, many of which target intimate acts between persons of the same sex.

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• 1969: Members of the gay community in New York riot after police raid the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village frequented by homosexuals. The demonstrations become a catalyst for the gay liberation movement.

• 1970-73: Courts in Minnesota, Washington, and Kentucky rebuff lawsuits filed by same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.

• 1986: 57 percent of Americans think homosexual relations between consenting adults should not be legal, while 32 percent believe they should be legal.

• 1991: Three gay couples in Hawaii challenge the constitutionality of laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

• 1993: Hawaii Supreme Court provisionally rules in favor of same-sex marriage.

• 1996: Congress passes the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars same-sex married spouses from obtaining the same federal benefits as heterosexual married spouses.

• 1996: 68 percent of Americans think same-sex marriage should not be legal.

• 1997: Comedian Ellen DeGeneres announces she's gay on her TV show.

• 1998: Hawaii voters approve a constitutional amendment allowing state lawmakers to ban same-sex marriage, which they do. Alaska voters pass a similar amendment.

• 1999: The Vermont Supreme Court rules that the traditional definition of marriage discriminates against same-sex couples. It gives the Legislature the option of amending the law or creating a new institution that provides them with the benefits of marriage.

• 2000: After a divisive debate, the Vermont Legislature approves the nation's first civil-union law.

• 2001: 35 states now have provisions defending traditional marriage.

• 2003: US Supreme Court strikes down a Texas anti-sodomy law, decreeing that sexual conduct between consenting adults is off limits to government regulation. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declares, for the first time, that same-sex couples enjoy a constitutional right to marry.

• 2003: 58 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, while 33 percent support it.

• 2004-06: 11 states pass measures or constitutional amendments barring gay marriage.

• 2006-07: High courts in New York, New Jersey, Washington, Maryland, and Georgia reject gay marriage.

• 2008: High courts in California and Connecticut rule in favor of gay marriage. Passage of Proposition 8 overturns California court decision.

• 2009: Iowa high court rules in favor of gay marriage.

• 2010: Iowa voters reject three high court justices up for retention. Congress repeals "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving in the military.

• 2012: 48 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 43 oppose it.

• 2013: 9 states now recognize same-sex marriage, while 41 do not. Two gay marriage cases come before the US Supreme Court.

Sources: Gallup; Pew Research Center; Michael Klarman, Harvard University law professor

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