History of the Anti-Gay Movement Since 1977

A timeline of the anti-gay movement

1988

After a ferocious campaign by the fundamentalist Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), Oregon voters overturn their governor's executive order banning anti-gay discrimination in state hiring. Led by anti-gay crusader Lon Mabon, OCA claims "promiscuous sodomite activists" have called for "the closing of all churches that oppose them and the total destruction of the family."


1989

U.S. Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.) publishes a landmark anti-gay tome, Shadow in the Land: Homosexuality in America. Calling lesbians and gay men "the ultimate enemy," Dannemeyer accuses straight people of "surrendering to this growing army without a shot," and predicts gay rights will "plunge our people, and indeed the entire West, into a dark night of the soul that could last hundreds of years."


1990

University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney founds Promise Keepers, which holds all-male stadium revivals promoting "traditional masculinity" throughout the 1990s. McCartney calls homosexuals "a group of people who don't reproduce, yet want to be compared with people who do reproduce," and says, "Homosexuality is an abomination of Almighty God."


1991

Pat Robertson founds the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), run by Christian Right attorney Jay Sekulow. ACLJ will be instrumental in fighting gay marriage, calling it a cancerous "perversion" that "directly attacks the family, which is the most vital cell in society."


1992

Colorado voters approve Amendment 2, overturning municipal laws protecting lesbians and gay men from discrimination. One of the organizers, Tony Marco, hones a "special rights" argument, claiming that gay people are inordinately wealthy and politically powerful, and neither need nor deserve the rights they "demand."

"The Gay Agenda," 20-minute video featuring racy scenes filmed at gay-pride marches, is released by Ty and Jeannette Beeson of the Antelope Valley Springs of Life church in Lancaster, Calif. Aired by Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club," it will become one of the most widely viewed pieces of anti-gay propaganda.

At the Republican National Convention in Houston, Pat Buchanan famously declares in a prime time speech, "There is a culture war going on in our country for the soul of America." Cheering audience members wave signs reading "Family Rights Forever, 'Gay' Rights Never."


1993

The battle over gay marriage is ignited when the Hawaii Supreme Court rules that denying same-sex couples marriage licenses violates "basic human rights" guaranteed in the state constitution — unless the state legislature can show a "compelling reason" to prevent gay marriage. Anti-gay groups begin a campaign to "defend marriage," with legal challenges led by ACLJ's Jay Sekulow.

President Clinton's proposal to lift the ban on openly gay military personnel sends anti-gay activists into action, shutting down phone lines to Congress with hundreds of thousands of calls in protest. "Honestly," asks D. James Kennedy in a fundraising letter for Coral Ridge Ministries, "would you want your son, daughter, or grandchild sharing a shower, foxhole, or blood with a homosexual?"

The Cobb County (Ga.) Commission passes a resolution calling homosexuality "incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes." Organizer Gordon Wysong declares, "We should blame them for every social problem in America." Cobb County will be dropped as a host for 1996 Atlanta Olympic events because of its anti-gay stance.


1994

More than 40 fundamentalist groups, led by Focus on the Family, hold a summit in Colorado to coordinate a "special rights" argument to oppose gay rights. This strategy is also promoted by the Traditional Values Coalition's "Gay Rights, Special Rights," a 40-minute video claiming gay rights will erode the civil rights of African Americans.


1995

The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, by fundamentalist activists Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, claims gays weren't victimized in the Holocaust, but instead helped mastermind the extermination of Jews. Repudiated by credible historians, the book is nevertheless praised by the Family Research Council and sold by several anti-gay organizations.


1996

The National Pro-Family Forum, dedicated to "one man-one woman" marriage, holds its first secret meeting in a Memphis church cellar with representatives from more than 20 major anti-gay groups. Before the end of the year, forum members successfully push the Defense of Marriage Act, a symbolic measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman, through Congress.

The Southern Baptist Convention announces a boycott of Disney parks and products because the company gives insurance benefits to partners of gay workers and allows "Gay Days" at its theme parks. "Beware of the Magic Kingdom," Focus on the Family advises parents. Gay Day protests become a staple of the anti-gay movement.

In Romer v. Evans, the U.S. Supreme Court rules Colorado's Amendment 2 (see 1992) unconstitutional by a 6-3 vote. The ruling puts an end to 20 years of state and local ballot initiatives aimed at stripping gays of anti-discrimination protections, leaving same-sex marriage as the main issue for anti-gay organizers.