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

  • 1988: National Coming Out Day starts

    A year after the second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a group of activists founded National Coming Out Day, which aims to help LGBTQ+ people live openly.

  • 1989: Denmark legalizes same-sex unions

    Demark recognized same-sex domestic partnerships in 1989, which extended the rights of marriage to gay and lesbians couples. In 2010, same-sex couples in the country could register for adoptions. They could legally get married in 2013.

  • 1990: First pride parade in South Africa

    Activist Simon Nkoli helped start the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand. GLOW organized the first pride parade in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1990, where people also marched against apartheid. Some LGBTQ+ marchers were so scared of exposing themselves that they marched with bags over their faces. Only about 800 people gathered for the first parade; by 2018, that number swelled to 22,000.

  • 1993: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' enacted

    President Bill Clinton signed “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” as a compromise with Republicans: gay and lesbian service members could join the military, but they could not tell anyone about their sexual orientation. Some officials, including Colin Powell, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, voiced concerns about AIDS and whether gay and straight soldiers would have to live in the same quarters.

  • 1994: American Medical Association opposes conversion therapy

    As the mid-'90s approached, the AMA told doctors to have “nonjudgmental recognition” of their gay, lesbian, and bisexual patients, and also stopped recommending that physicians try to “reverse” a patient's sexual orientation. By 2019, Washington D.C. and 18 states banned this type of conversion therapy.

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  • 1995: Gay and lesbian workers can get government security clearance

    Until 1995, someone who was gay or lesbian might not get a federal security clearance because government officials considered sexual orientation a security risk, the rationale being that gay and lesbian people who kept their lives secret could be subject to blackmail. President Bill Clinton signed an executive order ending the regulation.

  • 1996: President BIll Clinton signs Defense of Marriage Act

    In 1996, Clinton signed a law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In 2013, he wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post asking the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA. Clinton wrote that he believed the law to be “incompatible with our constitution” and the Court agreed with him.

  • 1996: High-schooler starts Gay-Straight Alliance

    After she started the Gay-Straight Alliance at her Utah high school, Kelli Peterson, a 17-year-old lesbian senior, made national news. The administration didn't want to allow her LGBTQ+ group, but the Equal Access Act meant the school couldn't legally prevent them from meeting. Instead, Salt Lake City's Board of Education banned all high school clubs. Students sued the school and a federal judge ruled in the teenagers' favor.

  • 1997: Ellen Degeneres comes out

    Ellen Degeneres told the world she was a lesbian on the cover of Time magazine. Then, her television character, Ellen Morgan, became the first openly LGBTQ+ lead in a sitcom. Degeneres won an Emmy for her performance, but her show was canceled a year later. In 2003, she started her long-running eponymous talk show; she later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

  • 1998: Bisexual flag created

    Michael Page created the pink, purple, and blue bisexual pride flag in the late ‘90s. In 1999, Page and other activists created Bi Visibility Day, which is celebrated every Sept. 23.

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