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One month after the demonstrations at the Stonewall Inn, activist Marty Robinson speaks to a crowd before the first mass march in support of gay rights in New York on July 27, 1969.
From its beginning with riots against police oppression of gays in New York City more than 40 years ago, the fight for gay rights continues today on new fronts: over marriage, therapies to “cure” homosexuals and one of the country's most popular institutions, the Boy Scouts of America.
Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two landmark, same-sex-marriage cases.
“The swift road to marriage equality has produced millions of conversations around the dinner table and water cooler on the freedom of every American to marry the person they love. It is these conversations that have changed minds. But while we've reached the tipping point on marriage, there's still a ways to go for full LGBT equality, like ending bullying in schools and workplace discrimination,” Kevin Nix, a spokesman for the LGBT advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
Here is a look at some of the key moments in American LGBT history:
June 28, 1969: Start of the gay rights movement
The Stonewall Riots begin after police raid a popular unlicensed gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, in New York City's Greenwich Village. The riots, which lasted for days, were triggered by police harassment of gays, according to media reports. This is considered by many to herald the start of the gay rights movement in the U.S.
June 27-28, 1970: First gay pride parades
On the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the nation's first gay pride parades are held in four cities – New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Fred Sergeant, who attended the NYC parade, reflected in the Village Voice: “Back then, it took a new sense of audacity and courage to take that giant step into the streets of Midtown Manhattan. ... I stayed at the head of the march the entire way, and at one point, I climbed onto the base of a light pole and looked back. I was astonished; we stretched out as far as I could see, thousands of us.” Pride events now are held worldwide every year.
San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, left, and Mayor George Moscone in April 1977.
Nov. 27, 1978: Assassination of Harvey Milk
Milk became the first openly gay man elected to office in a major U.S. city when he won a seat on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in early 1978. An outspoken advocate for gay rights, he urged gays to come out and fight for their rights. Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by former supervisor Dan White. But Milk's legacy has lived on and California has designated May 22 as a day of “special significance” in his honor.
1981: The AIDS crisis
Gay advocacy groups form to deal with the crisis gripping the community amid a slow government response to AIDS and the linking of the disease with gay men. Over the years, the AIDS Quilt will form, and some well-known figures will succumb to AIDS, including actor Rock Hudson, or be diagnosed with it, like basketball star Magic Johnson.
Wilfredo Lee / AP
President Bill Clinton answers questions during a news conference in Taylor, Mich., in 1996.
1993: 'Don't ask, don't tell'
President Bill Clinton enacts "don't ask, don't tell," a policy preventing gays from openly serving in the military. Under it, an estimated 13,000 people were expelled from the U.S. Armed Forces. President Barack Obama repealed the policy in 2011.
1996: Congress bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage (DOMA)
Congress passes the Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 of the statute bars recognition of same-sex marriage, affecting more than 1,100 provisions of federal laws. It denies gay couples the right to file joint taxes and the protections of the Family Medical and Leave Act, and it blocks surviving spouses from accessing veterans’ benefits, among other things. The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to DOMA on March 27, 2013. Bill Clinton, who signed the legislation, recently came out against the law and asked the Supreme Court to repeal it.
April 30, 1997: 'Yep, I'm gay' -- Degeneres comes out
Ellen Degeneres comes out on her television show, "Ellen," in an episode that drew in 42 million viewers. Her ratings plunged, which she said was due to a lack of promotion, and the show was pulled the next season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But she bounced back and she now hosts a popular afternoon talk show, "The Ellen Degeneres Show." Her “coming out” heralded an era of other gay celebrities following suit, and LGBT leading ladies and men have in the last year said they felt it was unnecessary to reveal their sexual preference.
Evan Agostini / Getty Images
Candlelight vigil for slain gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.
Oct. 12, 1998: Matthew Shepard's beating death
Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson rob and beat Shepherd, a 21-year-old college student, and tie him to a split-rail fence outside of Laramie, Wyo. He dies on Oct. 12, less than a week after the attack. The murder, for which the pair are each serving two consecutive life sentences, inspired "The Laramie Project," a play and later film about Laramie in the year after the murder, and federal hate crimes legislation approved in 2009 that bears Shepard's name.
2000: Boy Scouts can ban gays
The Supreme Court rules that the Boy Scouts of America can bar gay Scouts and leaders from membership, saying that as a private youth organization it has the right to do so. Under increasing pressure in recent years to change the policy, the BSA has said it will hold a vote on the controversial membership guidelines in May.
Toby Talbot / AP
Lawyers Susan Murray, left, and Beth Robinson brought a lawsuit before the Vermont Supreme Court that led to the court's decision on same-sex marriage in 2000.
2000: First state to allow same-sex civil unions
Vermont becomes the first state to allow same-sex couples to join their lives via civil unions. The state approved same-sex marriage in 2009.
2003: Anti-sodomy law struck down
The Supreme Court strikes down a Texas anti-sodomy law, reversing an earlier decision made in another case 17 years earlier that Justice Anthony Kennedy said “demeans the lives of homosexual persons.” Gays are ''entitled to respect for their private lives," Kennedy said for the court, according to The New York Times. ''The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.''
2004: State same-sex marriage bans
A dozen states pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. The amendments become a popular method to attempt to block legislative acts and judicial decisions on the issue.
Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Jeff Barr, left, places a wedding ring on Wes Wilkinson at the Yolo County clerk's office in Woodland, Calif. on June 16, 2008. They were among the first gay couples to wed in Yolo County after the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriages.
2008: California's Prop. 8 nixes gay marriage
California’s Supreme Court rules that gays and lesbians should be allowed to wed. For a short time that year, some 18,000 same-sex couples tie the knot in the Golden State. But in November, voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage (Proposition 8) after a hard-fought, multimillion-dollar campaign – one of the most expensive on this issue. The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Prop. 8 on March 26, 2013.
Pete Souza / White House via EPA
In an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC's "Good Morning America," on May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama spoke in support of gay marriage for the first time as president.
May 9, 2012: First sitting president to support same-sex marriage
Barack Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to back marriage for gay and lesbian couples. It marked a reversal from his 2008 campaign, when he said he opposed same-sex marriage but favored civil unions as an alternative. His announcement came one day after voters in North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as well as civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
Nov. 4, 2012: In a first, gay marriage wins at the ballot box
Voters in Maine approve same-sex marriage in the first vote brought by supporters, while voters in Maryland and Washington uphold state legislation allowing gays and lesbians to wed. And in Minnesota, voters reject – for just the second time nationwide – a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.