LGBTQ+ History Timeline

We’ve compiled just a few of the important LGBTQ+ events that have occurred since the beginning of the 20th century.  We’ve made sure to include items specific to the U.S., Canada, and the IATSE.

Click on the each line to expand.


IATSE International marches in its first offiical Pride Parade during WorldPride in Toronto.

The General Executive Board unanimously approves the IATSE Equality Statement at the Winter GEB in Hollywood, Florida.

Doug Boney sworn in as the representative of the IATSE on the Pride at Work National Executive Board.

The IATSE Pride condoms are officially announced at the Canadian Convention in Calgary, Alberta.

Nate Richmond appointed to represent the IATSE on the Canadian Labour Congress’ Pride & Solidarity Working Group.

The first unofficial IATSE LGBTQ+ meetup occurs during the Winter GEB in Austin, Texas. By word-of-mouth, Kim Holdridge and Carl Mulert gather approximately 15 openly LGBTQ+ attendees together.

Under his authority as IATSE International President, Matthew D. Loeb establishes the first IATSE Pride Committee and appoints Carl Mulert, Doug Boney, Kimberly Holdridge, Nate Richmond (Chair) and Rachel McLendon to serve.

The General Office marches in its first official Pride March during WorldPride New York City. This is also the first public event featuring the entire IATSE Pride Committee.


The Society for Human Rights is founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago. The society is the first gay rights organization as well as the oldest documented in America. Soon after its founding, the society disbands due to political pressure.

In Los Angeles, gay rights activist Harry Hay founds America’s first sustained national gay rights organization. In an attempt to change public perception of homosexuality, the Mattachine Society aims to “eliminate discrimination, derision, prejudice and bigotry,” to assimilate homosexuals into mainstream society, and to cultivate the notion of an “ethical homosexual culture.”

The American Psychiatric Association lists homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance in its first publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, banning homosexuals from working for the federal government or any of its private contractors. The Order lists homosexuals as security risks, along with alcoholics and neurotics.

In San Francisco, the Daughters of Bilitis becomes the first lesbian rights organization in the United States. The organization hosts social functions, providing alternatives to lesbian bars and clubs, which are frequently raided by police

In the landmark case One, Inc. v. Olesen, the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the First Amendment rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) magazine “One: The Homosexual Magazine.” The suit was filed after the U.S. Postal Service and FBI declared the magazine obscene material, and it marks the first time the United States Supreme Court rules in favor of homosexuals.

Illinois repeals its sodomy laws, becoming the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexuality.

After transgender customers become raucous in a 24-hour San Francisco cafeteria, management calls police. When a police officer manhandles one of the patrons, she throws coffee in his face and a riot ensues, eventually spilling out onto the street, destroying police and public property.

Following the riot, activists established the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, the first peer-run support and advocacy organization in the world.

Police raid the Stonewall Inn, roughing up patrons and arresting them, some for violating the state’s gender appropriate clothing statute. (The “three-piece” rule meant that men and women had to wear three items of attire conventionally associated with their gender. Female officers would take suspected cross-dressing patrons into the bathroom to verify their sex.)

One of the patrons who was arrested was a suit-wearing, gender nonconforming lesbian named Storme De Larverie. “Arent you going to do something?” she is said to have asked the crowd, sparking the collective rebellion against police. Led by trans women of colour including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, everything from rocks and pennies, to bricks and Molotov cocktails were thrown. The Community who had previously felt helpless had had enough and they finally fought back.

The Stonewall Riots/Uprising are seen as one of the most important events in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S.

Christopher St. Liberation Day commemorates the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Following the event, thousands of members of the LGBT community march through New York into Central Park, in what will be considered America’s first gay pride parade.

Harvey Milk wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is responsible for introducing a gay rights ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs. Milk also leads a successful campaign against Proposition 6, an initiative forbidding homosexual teachers.

Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone are assassinated by Dan White, a former police officer and former city supervisor who had clashed with Milk over LGBTQ issues.

That night, Cleve Jones, a 24y/o intern of Milk’s, organized a candle-lit march from the Castro up Market Street.

An estimated 75,000 people participate in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. LGBT people and straight allies demand equal civil rights and urge for the passage of protective civil rights legislature.

The New York Times prints the first story of a rare pneumonia and skin cancer found in 41 gay men in New York and California. The CDC initially refers to the disease as GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency Disorder.

When the symptoms are found outside the gay community, Bruce Voeller, biologist and founder of the National Gay Task Force, successfully lobbies to change the name of the disease to AIDS.

Wisconsin becomes the first U.S. state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

When the symptoms are found outside the gay community, Bruce Voeller, biologist and founder of the National Gay Task Force, successfully lobbies to change the name of the disease to AIDS.

Barney Frank becomes the first member of Congress to come out voluntarily. (Served 1980-2013)

The Department of Defense issues a directive prohibiting the U.S. Military from barring applicants from service based on their sexual orientation. “Applicants… shall not be asked or required to reveal whether they are homosexual, ” states the new policy, which still forbids applicants from engaging in homosexual acts or making a statement that he or she is homosexual. This policy is known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In Lawrence v. Texas the U.S. Supreme Court rules that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional.

Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize gay marriage. The court finds the prohibition of gay marriage unconstitutional because it denies dignity and equality of all individuals.

The Matthew Shepard Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on October 28th. The measure expands the 1969 U.S. Federal Hate Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming on October 7, 1998 because of his sexual orientation.

The U.S. Senate votes 65-31 to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Military.

With a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

The Supreme Court rules (6-3) that the langauge of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the majority.


Montreal writers Elsa Gidlow and Roswell George Mills launch “Les Mouches fantastiques”, a mimeographed underground magazine which is the first known LGBT publication in Canadian and North American history. At least five issues are published before Mills and Gidlow move to New York City in the early 1920s.​

The RCMP, throughout the late 1950s and the entirety of the 1960s, kept tabs on homosexuals and the patrons of gay bars in Ottawa and other cities. The force also worked with the FBI’s own surveillance of homosexuals and alerted the FBI when a suspected homosexual had crossed the border to the United States.

Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau proposes amendments to the Criminal Code which, among other things, would relax the laws against homosexuality.

“I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” – Pierre Trudeau

Trudeau’s amendments pass into the Criminal Code, decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada.

Roughly 100 people from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and the surrounding areas gathered in the pouring rain at Parliament Hill for Canada’s First Gay Liberation Protest and March. They presented a petition to the government with a list of ten demands for equal rights and protections.

Quebec includes sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code, making it the first province in Canada to pass a gay civil rights law.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommends in its annual report that “sexual orientation” be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

More than 300 men are arrested following police raids at four gay bath houses in Toronto, the largest mass arrest since the War Measures Act was invoked during the October Crisis. The next night, about 3,000 people march in downtown Toronto to protest the arrests. This is considered to be Canada’s ‘Stonewall’.

Svend Robinson goes public about being gay, becoming the first member of Parliament to do so. (In office 1979-2004)

The term Two Spirit (niizh manidoowag) is coined at the third annual Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg. The term allows Indigenous LGBTQ+ folks to reject other English terms that impose the Western views of gender and sexuality on indigenous people.

The federal court lifts the country’s ban on homosexuals in the military, allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces.

The federal government passes Bill C-33 which adds “sexual orientation” to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Ontario becomes the first province to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

(Ontario ruled that marriages performed in January 2001 were legal when performed, and therefore the Ontario government retroactively recognizes two marriages that took place in Toronto on January 14, 2001. This technically means that Canada is the first country in the world to have a government-legitimized same-sex marriage.)

Bill C-38, the law giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry, receives royal assent and becomes law. This officially makes Canada the fourth country in the world (after The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain) to officially recognize same-sex marriage.