History of the Anti-Gay Movement Since 1977

A timeline of the anti-gay movement

1997

Ellen DeGeneres' character on the TV sitcom "Ellen" comes out as a lesbian, initiating protests and boycotts of sponsors led by Donald Wildmon and Jerry Falwell, who calls the actor "Ellen Degenerate."


1998

A coalition of fundamentalist groups led by Coral Ridge Ministries sponsors "Truth in Love," a million-dollar advertising campaign promoting "ex-gay ministries," which use discredited psychological methods to "cure" gay people. One day before a second round of "Truth in Love" ads is released, gay college student Matthew Shepard dies after being savagely beaten and left tied to a fence in Wyoming. The murder spurs a national debate about the connection between anti-gay rhetoric and hate crimes.

In a TV interview, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) compares gay people to alcoholics and "kleptomaniacs," earning praise from anti-gay activists. "Leaders willing to be set apart and stand solidly in the truth are rare in today's permissive culture," says James Dobson.


1999

Vermont Democratic Gov. Howard Dean signs a law sanctioning same-sex civil unions, entitling gay couples to marital rights and benefits. Anti-gay leader Gary Bauer calls it "an unmitigated disaster" that is "worse than terrorism."


2000

"Teletubbies" cartoon character Tinky Winky is "outed" as gay in a "Parents' Alert" in Jerry Falwell's Liberty Journal, which asserts, "He is purple — the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle — the gay-pride symbol."

The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that the Boy Scouts of America can continue to ban gay scoutmasters. Anti-gay activists like Robert Knight of the Family Research Council use the scouting controversy to revive anti-gay "child molester" propaganda. After CBS morning-show host Bryant Gumbel interviews Knight, he is heard on air commenting, "What a fucking idiot." Anti-gay groups label CBS the "Christian Bashing System" and lobby unsuccessfully for Gumbel's firing.


2001

On "The 700 Club" two days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Jerry Falwell blames the tragedy on "the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle." Host Pat Robertson responds: "Well, I totally concur."


2002

The Rev. Michael Bray, a convicted abortion clinic bomber and leading advocate of murdering abortion doctors, praises Saudi Arabia for beheading three gay men on New Year's Day. "Let us give thanks," Bray proclaims. "Let us welcome these tools of purification. Open the borders! Bring in some agents of cleansing."


2003

Alan Sears, head of the Alliance Defense Fund, co-authors The Homosexual Agenda, a book that asserts gay activists' ultimate goal is "silencing" conservative Christians. Sears also accuses cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants of being gay.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules 4-3 that gay and lesbian couples have a right to marry. In the Washington Dispatch, legendary fundamentalist organizer Paul Weyrich declares marriage "The Final Frontier for Civilization as We Know It."

The U.S. Supreme Court overturns state anti-sodomy statutes in Lawrence v. Texas, ruling that gay people are entitled to "an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct." Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia complains that "the court has largely signed onto the so-called homosexual agenda."


2004

Constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage pass by wide margins in all 11 states, including Ohio and Oregon. Anti-gay groups meet in Washington, D.C., to plan for 10 more state initiatives in 2005.

James Dobson's Focus on the Family Action organizes "Mayday for Marriage" rallies in six major cities to promote anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in 11 states. An estimated 150,000 turn out for Oct. 15 protest in Washington, D.C., where Dobson declares, "[E]verything we care about is on the line. It's now or never."

San Francisco officials begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February, with a handful of other U.S. municipalities following suit. Later that month, President George W. Bush announces his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution.