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From Stonewall to today: 51 years of modern LGBTQ+ history

  • 1981: Norway enacts anti-discrimination laws

    Norway in 1981 amended its laws to include protections for LGBTQ+ people. The legislation stated that business owners couldn't discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation or deny them access to public events. Hate speech was also prohibited.

  • 1981: Gay men affected with “rare cancer”

    In 1981, the New York Times reported 41 gay men had a “rare cancer.” Doctors originally thought HIV/AIDS was a skin cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma. One year later, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) started calling the illness “acquired immune deficiency syndrome,” or AIDS.

  • 1982: Wisconsin passes LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination law

    In 1981, Rep. David Clarenbach (D-Wis.) brought forth a measure to protect LGBTQ+ people from employment discrimination in public and private sectors—making Wisconsin the first in the U.S. to pass a statewide law against such discrimination. The law also banned landlords from denying housing based on sexual orientation.

  • 1983: BiPOL forms

    BiPOL, the first bisexual political group, started in San Francisco in 1983. They helped put on the Bisexual Rights Rally a year later, outside the Democratic National Convention.

  • 1984: HIV discovered

    After ruling out cancer, researchers in France and the United States discovered that a retrovirus caused AIDS. Scientists hoped a vaccine would be available by the late '80s, but it wasn't until 2012 that the FDA approved PrEP, the first drug to help prevent the transmission of HIV. In 2019, two men were “cured” of AIDS after blood stem cell transplants. More than 35 million people have died of AIDS or related illnesses.

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  • 1986: Bowers v. Hardwick

    After Michael Hardwick failed to show up for a court summons for public drinking, a police officer went to his house. That's when he and a male friend were arrested for having consensual sex, which was illegal between two people of the same gender. The case, Bowers v. Hardwick, went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the state. The Court didn't strike down sodomy laws until 2003.

  • 1986: New York passes anti-discrimination bill

    After more than a decade of debate, New York City passed an anti-discrimination bill in 1986: Sexual orientation couldn't be the basis of discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations.

  • 1987: U.K. opens first HIV/AIDS clinic

    The HIV/AIDS crisis continued into the late 80s. In 1987, Princess Diana dispelled the myth that the disease could be transmitted by touch: without gloves, she shook the hand of an infected man at the opening of the United Kingdom's first HIV/AIDS unit at the London Middlesex Hospital.

  • 1987: Barney Frank comes out as gay

    Although his straight allies and colleagues cautioned him against it, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) revealed his sexual orientation in 1987, making him the second openly gay congressman. Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) reluctantly came out in 1983. Frank announced his retirement in 2011.

  • 1987: ACT UP

    The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) helped change the way people thought about the disease. Their slogan, Silence = Death, was simple but effective. Many say that the group jump-started a movement which led to the creation of HIV/AIDS drugs.

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