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A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: LGBTQIA+ Civil Rights

This guide focuses on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States.

Introduction to LGBTQIA+ Civil Rights

Discrimination continues to exist against minorities of all kinds, including towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community.  Historically, anyone who strayed from the traditional gender roles assigned at birth were often characterized as mentally defective or psychopaths.  Treatments for individuals exhibiting these traits varied from sterilization and castration to lobotomies and conversion therapy.  In addition to the risk of being subjected to traumatic therapies, societal expectations led many to adjust their behaviors and appearance in order to pass as straight.  These pressures could lead to suicide, drug abuse, and homelessness.

Significant progress has made in civil rights that have dramatically improved the legal protections available to this community, but challenges remain.  This section of the guide outlines historical developments and related resources.  


Selected Library Resources:

  • Walter Frank, Law and the Gay Rights Story: The Long Search for Equal Justice in a Divided DemocracyKF4754.5 .F73 2014, also available as an eBook
  • Vicki Lynn Eaklor, Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century, HQ76.3.U5 E35 2008 
  • Susan Gluck Mezey, Beyond Marriage: Continuing Battles for LGBT Rights, KF4754.5 .M489 2017
  • David Eisenbach, Gay Power: An American Revolution, HQ76.8.U5 E47 2006
  • William N. Eskridge, Jr., Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America,1861-2003, KF9328.S6 E84 2008
  • Libby S. Adler, Gay Priori: A Queer Critical Legal Studies Approach to Law Reform, KF4754.5 .A935 2018
  • David E. Newton, Gay and Lesbian Rights: a Reference Handbook, HQ76.3U5 N48 1994
  • Independent Voices - An open-access collection of nearly 500 (and growing) underground newspapers and alternative magazines from the 1960s through the 1980s. The collection includes feminist periodicals, LGBT publications, military/GI newsletters, small-press literary magazines, and alternative campus/community newspapers. 


Additional Resources:


Relevant Subject Headings:

  • Homosexuality -- Law and legislation
  • Gays -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States
  • Homophobia -- Law and legislation -- United States
  • Sex discrimination in criminal justice administration -- United States
  • Gays -- Violence against -- United States
  • Hate crimes -- United States


106th Sibley Lecture, "Noah's Curse and Paul's Abomination: Civil Rights, Religious Liberty, Gay Equality"



Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement