I have always found it to be a strange quirk in our history that some of the most significant moments in the struggle for gay rights have occurred while there was a Republican president in control of the White House. The Stonewall Riots began in June of 1969 and would spark the modern gay rights movement. Our president was Republican Richard Milhous Nixon.
The HIV virus was first discovered in the early 1980’s when gay men with symptoms of a disease that now are considered typical of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) were first described in L.A. and NYC. The homophobia and the atrocious response to the epidemic by political leaders galvanized America’s gay community like never before and helped create an army of activists out of ordinary citizens. Republican Ronald Reagan was our president.
In 2003 the United States Supreme Court struck down the sodomy laws in the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas. The ruling not only decriminalized gay sex but also set a legal precedent that continues to help advance the cause of equality for gay Americans. In the following year same-sex marriages were legalized for the first time in America in the U.S. state of Massachusetts and began on May 17, 2004. Both of these historic events happened while Republican George W. Bush was president.
And strangely enough, some of the biggest setbacks on the road to gay equality have come while a Democrat was in office. During the 1990’s the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that bars openly gay people from serving in the military, as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), were both enacted during the presidency of Bill Clinton, a Democrat who often espoused support for the gay community. And though President Obama still has time to turn the tides on this sad trend, his efforts to be a “fierce advocate” for gay Americans have been sadly lackluster so far. Let’s just hope that history is not repeating itself yet again.