This pride month ain’t just any old pride month: this one will go down in history as the June when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage nationwide! Sure, same-sex marriage was already legal in over 37 states, and more figures in sports, politics, business, and entertainment are coming out every day, but when you stop to consider the injustices that were commonplace a mere fifty years ago, it’s pretty mind-blowing to see just how far the LGBTQ community (that’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer to folks just tuning in) has come.
AT&T has joined the movement towards equality with efforts like its #ATTLiveProud initiative, a campaign that celebrates LGBTQ Pride Month and the importance of proudly proclaiming, ‘This is Me.” In that vain, here are twenty inspiring moments that everyone (regardless of gender and sexuality) can celebrate as they let their own rainbow flags fly with pride.
We Are Family
LGBTQ history has shown time and again that together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. These milestones prove that unified LGBTQ organizations and communities have the power and resolve to fight for the freedom we all deserve.
1955: Girls Just Wanna Have Rights
The Daughters of Bilitis becomes the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States, giving a whole new meaning to the term “ladies’ night.”
1975: Something to Phone Home About
AT&T becomes one of the first major businesses in the United States to adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation.
1985: Pretty, Witty, and Gay
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) forms with the goal of ending homophobic reporting. While their relationship with the press starts out a little rocky, they later convince the New York Times to open up their Weddings & Celebrations section to same-sex couples.
1987: A League of Their Own
AT&T fights discrimination again by establishing LEAGUE at AT&T, a resource group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees and their allies. LEAGUE is now the longest-running LGBT Employee Resource Group in the nation.
Vote, Baby, Vote
Running for office, changing policy, and taking elections by storm: these are just some of the ways that governments and activists across the globe have made the world a more tolerant place.
1974: Kathy the First
Kathy Kozachenko is elected to the city council of Ann Arbor, Michigan, making her the first openly LGBTQ candidate to be elected to political office in the United States. She runs (and wins) on a platform that seeks to uphold Michigan’s civil rights laws for homosexuals.
1977: Harvey Milk, an openly gay community leader, is sworn in as a member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors after beating out 16 other candidates to win by a 30% margin. This charismatic politician begins his term by sponsoring a civil rights bill outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Milk is posthumously named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century, and is awarded the Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2009.
2004: There’s Something About Marry
On May 17th Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. 37 states (and counting!) follow in its footsteps over the next 11 years, with many more to come.
2013: Keep Calm and Toss the Bouquet
Across the pond, Queen Elizabeth II approves a same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales on July 17th– because nothing goes better with tea and crumpets than equality and freedom.
May 22, 2015: Luck o’ the Irish
On May 22nd, Ireland becomes the first nation to vote for legalizing same-sex marriage. The referendum passes by a 62% landslide, thanks in large part to a galvanized body of young and first-time voters. This is a big, big deal for a nation so Catholic that they only legalized divorce in 1995…and an even bigger deal for the international LGBTQ community.
June 26, 2015: SCOTUS FTW
June 26 was a big day. Many of us have been walking around with a big grin on our faces since Friday when SCOTUS ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the Fourteenth Amendment. The landmark 5-4 decision overturned states’ existing marriage bans (but that in your inequality pipe and smoke it!) and inspired an NYC Pride Parade for the ages. A little background: the actual case, Obergefell v. Hodges, refers to the plaintiff, Jim Obergefell, who brought charges against the state of Ohio for refusing to consider him the surviving spouse when his husband passed away. In the good guys’ decision, Justice Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. [The petitioners] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” SCOTUS mic drop.
Act Loud and Proud
Injustice doesn’t go away by itself; the only way to fight it is empowered action and a whole lot of bravery. Fortunately, the LGBTQ community knows how to affect change in style. These examples of revolutionary action are just a few of the righteous fights that deserve serious praise.
1969: Queens of the Night
On June 27th police raid the Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York’s gay-friendly Greenwich Village that primarily caters to drag queens and blue-collar gay men. The raid quickly spills into the street and grows into a riot lasting three days.
The event galvanizes NYC’s gay and lesbian community and awareness eventually rises to the national level, marking the official beginning of an ongoing battle for LGBTQ civil rights on a grand scale. A year later, members of the community march through New York in memory of the Stonewall Riots, birthing the annual gay pride parade. To this day, we celebrate Pride Month every June and do our best to follow in these admirable footsteps by joining NYC’s famous parade as it makes its way through the West Village, memorializing the stance at Stonewall.
1993: These Boots Were Made for Marching
On April 25th an estimated one million people march in Washington to speak out against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allows LGBTQ people to join the armed forces but fires them for talking about it. Speakers and performers include Jesse Jackson, RuPaul, and Eartha Kitt. The magnitude of attendance and array of speakers prove that LGBTQ issues are important to everyone, regardless of their gender or sexual preference. (Thanks to continued dedication, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has since been repealed.)
Artists Make Good Activists
The LGBTQ community has long expressed itself and spread its message through the arts. From the stage to the canvas, LGBTQ virtuosos have inspired others to live proud with their vision and talent.
1958: Give My Regards to Off-Off-Broadway
Joe Cino, a gay Italian-American actor, opens Caffe Cino in the West Village. Originally intended as a place for his friends to hang out and drink coffee, it quickly becomes a cultural mecca for beat poetry, art, and, most notably theater. The shows take place on an 8x8 stage haphazardly constructed from milk crates and carpet scraps, but these performances eventually spawn the off-off-Broadway movement.
1970: Let’s Hear It For the Boys
The Boys in the Band becomes Hollywood’s first attempt at making a film openly depicting gay characters. Fans of future gems like 2005’s Brokeback Mountain have these trailblazing boys to thank.
1998: Inching Toward Awareness
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a glam-rock musical created by and starring John Cameron Mitchell, tells(/sings) the story of a genderqueer singer from East Germany. The show invites viewers to question their own notions about gender (and consider wearing more glitter). In 2001 the film version becomes a cult sensation, and in 2014 the Broadway production wins the TONY Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
2006: Ain’t We Got Fun?
Alison Bechdel, author and illustrator of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, publishes Fun Home, an autobiographical graphic novel in which she grapples with her own issues around sexual orientation and gender roles. It makes the New York Times bestseller list and is named one of the best books of 2006 by multiple publications. In 2013 its musical adaptation at The Public Theater in New York enjoys multiple extensions, and is nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
I’m Coming Out
What happens when notable figures and celebrities come out of the closet? First, awareness. Then, tolerance. Aside from creating memorable magazine covers, these LGBTQ icons give others the strength to come out and put a recognizable face to the movement.
1997: Time to Come Out
Beloved comedian, talk show host, and dancing queen, Ellen DeGeneres, comes out as a lesbian on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Later that month, she graces the cover of Time, boldly announcing, “Yep, I’m gay.” To round things out, her character on the sitcom Ellen comes also out of the closet — to her therapist, played by Oprah Winfrey. “The Puppy Episode” is one of the highest-rated episodes of the show, proving that people don’t care if you’re gay or straight — as long as you’re hilarious, lovable, and have sweet moves.
2014: It All Started With a Kiss
On May 10th, NFL defensive end Michael Sam is drafted to the St. Louis rams. Like many athletes who make the draft, he bursts into tears of joy and kisses his significant other, who just so happens to be a man named Vito. This touching display of love and pride makes Sam the first openly gay player in the NFL.
2014: The Apple of Our Eye
Later that year, Apple CEO Tim Cook declares, “I’m proud to be gay.” His inspiring proclamation gives the tech scene (and the world) an LGBTQ icon.
2015: Call Me Caitlyn (Not Maybe)
In June, Vanity Fair introduces the world to Caitlyn Jenner: the gold-medal Olympic athlete and reality TV star formerly known as Bruce Jenner. Caitlyn’s stunning cover sparks a long-overdue conversation about transgender issues and gives the LGBTQ community yet another beautiful, brave hero to celebrate.
LGBTQ history has a lot to be proud of — these laudable figures and achievements merely scratch the surface. No matter who you find attractive or what you choose to do about it, you can make the world a more vibrant, tolerant place for everyone by supporting equality initiatives like AT&T’s #ATTLiveProud and celebrating the human right to live and love freely, whether it’s pride season or not.
Anna Schumacher is a freelance writer and the author of the YA doomsday series End Times, out now from Razorbill Books.