The contemporary gay rights movement began forty-two years ago in Greenwich Village with the watershed event know as the Stonewall Uprising (1969). The spontaneous Stonewall refusal to accept society’s unrelenting harassment and humiliation of gays and lesbians opened a new chapter in the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
Within a few years of the Stonewall Uprising the LGBT movement was gaining momentum. It took conservative Christians about five years to organize a major response. Below, I am first listing some major events of the LGBT movement, then I list some conservative Christians responses.
Gay and Lesbian Events
- 1969 The Stonewall Uprising
- 1970 The first major Gay Pride events in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
- 1971 Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska decriminalize oral sex; Idaho temporarily decriminalizes oral sex
- 1972 The founding of the parent group PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends
of Lesbians and Gays)
- 1973 The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its
manual of psychiatric disorders
- 1977 Openly gay business man Harvey Milk is elected to the San Francisco city council
- 1981 Official announcement by the Center for Disease Control of a strange
- 1982 Wisconsin is first US state to ban discrimination against homosexuals
- 1984 City of Berkeley adopts domestic partner health benefits for city employees
Conservative Christian Responses
To fight the LGBT civil rights campaign, conservative Christians responded in a concerted effort. This anti-homosexual campaign included 1) the formation of new organizations, 2) a legislative agenda, and 3) the massive involvement of the Christian publishing industry.
- 1974 American Christian Cause was founded to oppose the “gay agenda”
- 1977 Anita Bryant began her anti-homosexual-rights campaign in Dade County Florida
- 1978 Senator John Brigg sponsors Proposition 6 in California, which would prohibit homosexuals, and possibly anyone who supported gay rights, from working in public schools
- 1978 Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated by colleague and gay rights opponent Dan White
- 1978 The Presbyterian Church (USA) issues an “authoritative interpretation” of
their constitution forbidding the ordination of “self-affirming, practicing
homosexuals” as officers of the church
- 1979 Baptist minister Jerry Falwell and Republican strategist Paul Weyrich found The Moral Majority
- 1981 The Moral Majority starts its anti-homosexual crusade
- 1983 AIDS is described as a “gay plague” by Rev. Falwell
- 1984 Phyllis Schlafly denounces Values Clarification as “a strategy to put
down the barrier of prejudice toward homosexuals, lesbians, and radicals.”
During the 15 years between the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and the 1984 re-election of Ronald Reagan as president, a host of anti-homosexual books from evangelical publishers flooded the market. Five well-known authors published numerous anti-homosexual books during that eleven-year period.
- Pat Robertson – 2 books
- D. James Kennedy – 2 books
- Phyllis Schlafly – 2 Books
- Jerry Falwell – 6 Books
- James Dobson – 8 Books
Ronald Reagan was swept to re-election by the Religious Right, organized by Republican political strategist Paul Weyrich, Rev. Jerry Falwell and their Moral Majority. Fueled in part by the growing success of the LGBT civil rights movement, the Religious Right re-elected Reagan, who by some accounts was not anti-homosexual.
As president, Reagan did not support the repeal of anti-gay laws or policies, which would have spelled serious trouble for him as a Republican. Worse than that, he dragged his feet on funding AIDS research, which contributed to the tragic (read: criminal) deaths of hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately he had run on a platform to reduce the government’s role in healthcare and medicine. Thank God for the confrontational and combative strategy of ACT UP. But in 1978, as governor of California, Reagan spoke out against the Briggs Initiative, Prop 8, along with presidents Ford and Carter.
All the events listed above were either highly publicized or easily available to the public. Something else happened in 1984, however. It came with hoopla and fanfare, but its effect on the LGBT civil rights campaign was initially subtle. The influence of that event not only persists to the present day, but will persist far into the future.