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5.2: National Level Activism

  • Page ID
    68371
  • In the 1970s, LBGTW Activists sought to build a national movement for LGBTQ rights. In 1973, the National Gay Task Force formed as an advocate for LGBTQ rights, modeled after the American Civil Liberties Union. The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund was established the same year, becoming the nation’s first LGBTQ legal organization. To bring more political pressure to LGBTQ rights issues, the Gay Rights National Lobby was founded in 1976 and the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1980. The two organizations would eventually merge to become the largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBTQ Americans. Horizons Foundation, Gay Rights Advocates, Lesbian Rights Project, and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, emerged at the end of the decade to the join the national effort.

    In 1979, a massive march on Washington demonstrated the great diversity of people and organizations that had arisen in the decade following the Stonewall riots. The march celebrated the LGBTQ movement’s significant achievements in local communities, its success against sodomy laws at the state level, and the promise of a great coalition at the national level. The march also addressed how much left there was to achieve. There was still no federal or state anti-discrimination legislation for LGBTQ citizens. There were no same-sex partner benefits, even on the municipal level. Challenges against bans on same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian participation in military service had yet to achieve any success.

    The Immigration and Naturalization Service still excluded LGBTQ people from entering the country. For all that was built and achieved in a decade, the LGBTQ movement would have to continue the struggle into the following decades for broader civil rights victories.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Steve Endean 1948 - 1993

    INSPIRED BY THE GAY RIGHTS ADVOCACY of Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, Steve Endean joined the gay rights cause while a student at the University of Minnesota. He formed the one-man Gay Rights Lobby and used it to usher through a broad anti-discrimination bill in Minneapolis in 1973. He moved to Washington, D.C., and took over the ailing Gay Rights National Lobby in 1978. Endean focused his efforts on lobbying the United States Congress for a gay and lesbian anti-discrimination bill. Understanding that money means political power, he helped found, then lead, the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1980.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): A crowd gathers at the 1979 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the LGBTQ community’s first national march for civil rights
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