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The very secrecy in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people had to live made it difficult for them to organize to fight for their rights as other, more visible groups had done. Some organizations did exist, however. The Mattachine Society , established in 1950, was one of the first groups to champion the rights of gay men. Its goal was to unite gay men who otherwise lived in secrecy and to fight against abuse. The Mattachine Society often worked with the Daughters of Bilitis , a lesbian rights organization. Among the early issues targeted by the Mattachine Society was police entrapment of male homosexuals.

See Vern L. Bullough. 2002. Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context . New York: Harrington Park Press.

In the 1960s, the gay and lesbian rights movements began to grow more radical, in a manner similar to other civil rights movements. In 1962, gay Philadelphians demonstrated in front of Independence Hall. In 1966, transgender prostitutes who were tired of police harassment rioted in San Francisco. In June 1969, gay men, lesbians, and transgender people erupted in violence when New York City police attempted to arrest customers at a gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn    . The patrons’ ability to resist arrest and fend off the police inspired many members of New York’s LGBT community, and the riots persisted over several nights. New organizations promoting LGBT rights that emerged after Stonewall were more radical and confrontational than the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis had been. These groups, like the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front , called not just for equality before the law and protection against abuse but also for “liberation,” Gay Power, and Gay Pride.

See David Carter. 2004. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution . New York: St. Martin’s Press; Martin Duberman.1993. Stonewall . New York: Penguin Books.

Although LGBT people gained their civil rights later than many other groups, changes did occur beginning in the 1970s, remarkably quickly when we consider how long other minority groups had fought for their rights. In 1973, the American Psychological Association ended its classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1994, the U.S. military adopted the policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” This act, Department of Defense Directive 1304.26 , officially prohibited discrimination against suspected gays, lesbians, and bisexuals by the U.S. military. It also prohibited superior officers from asking about or investigating the sexual orientation of those below them in rank.

Public Law 103–160: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994.
However, those gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who spoke openly about their sexual orientation were still subject to dismissal because it remained illegal for anyone except heterosexuals to serve in the armed forces. The policy ended in 2011, and now gays, lesbians, and bisexuals may serve openly in the military.
NBC News. 22 July 2011. “Obama Certifies End of Military’s Gay Ban,” http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43859711/ns/us_news-life/#.VrAzFlLxh-U.
In 2006, in the case of Lawrence v. Texas , the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional state laws that criminalized sexual intercourse between consenting adults of the same sex.
Lawrence v. Texas , 539 U.S. 558 (2003).

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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