chapter  22
20 Pages

Coming Out of the Closet and into the Courts

The Gay Rights Cases (1986–2003)
WithMelvin I. Urofsky

One cannot hide one’s gender or the color of one’s skin, but for many years gays and lesbians in America had to hide their sexual orientation because of widespread prejudice against homosexuality. Public opinion had been ready to respond to calls for equality for women and people of color, but perhaps because many Americans were unfamiliar with homosexuality, and because religious groups condemned it as a sin, the fight for gay rights took a different turn. Gay and lesbian groups continued to push for equal rights, and saw their efforts rewarded with numerous state and local ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. Laws criminalizing homosexual acts had been brought over by the colonists from the Mother Country, and after the American Revolution, all of the states had written such strictures into their legal codes.