Introduction to Gay Rights Movement

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Introduction to Gay Rights Movement

Jeremy Bentham was one of the first Western legal scholars to suggest reform of laws banning homosexuality. His Offenses Against Oneself, an excerpt of which is included in this chapter, was written at a time in England when homosexual sex was a crime punishable by hanging. Bentham thought his ideas too scandalous for his own time and the essay was not widely published until 1978—almost two hundred years after it was written. Indeed, sodomy laws lingered on the books in the United States long after the gay rights movement was a vocal and present social force. An article on Lawrence, et al. v. Texas chronicles the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas sodomy law.

While decriminalizing homosexual sex is an important step, the struggle for gay rights is founded upon a larger struggle for social equity. In 1969, the Stonewall Riots launched the current movement for gay rights in the United States. The first Gay Pride Day and parade was held on its first anniversary. Pride events marked a significant turn in the gay rights movement. The struggle was taken to the streets, the media, and the public. The emphasis on pride sought to foster tolerance and combat stigma and shame, but in an uncompromising manner that encouraged gay individuals to be open and honest about their sexuality. The movement grew more inclusive and broadened its predominantly male focus. Espousing lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered rights, the gay rights movement often prefers the acronym LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered).

The appearance of AIDS unmistakably altered the gay rights movement. Activists asserted that silence about gay issues could literally be fatal. The AIDS crisis in may ways solidified various factions of the gay rights movement, uniting the community—and society at large—in the struggle to combat not only AIDS, but the culture of fear, panic, intolerance, and misinformation surrounding the disease. Today, AIDS is no longer a gay issue. The disease does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. Accordingly, AIDS is addressed in the chapter on Gender and Sexuality Issues in Medicine and Public Health.

A significant portion of this chapter is devoted to current issues in the LGBT community, especially marriage and family. Articles on the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) and the recognition of civil partnerships and same-sex marriages frame the debate over gay marriage in the United States. Several articles explore issues associated with the increasing number of LGBT households with children, such as adoption and child custody.

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Introduction to Gay Rights Movement

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Introduction to Gay Rights Movement