The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation formed in New York City in 1985 to protest the New York Post's sensationalized AIDS news coverage. Over the years, GLAAD expanded to become a national watchdog and advocacy group to combat prejudicial LGBTQ coverage in the media, whether on printed material, radio, television, film, or the internet. To combat the use of pejoratives when referring to LGBTQ people, GLAAD compiled a Media Reference Guide to provide media outlets with neutral terms in place of offensive ones. GLAAD’s Media Awards have been a fixture since 1989, recognizing fair and inclusive media representations of the LGBTQ community.
Founded by Kevin Jennings in Massachusetts in 1990, GLSEN aims to reform the United States educational system by ensuring a safe environment for K-12 students. Its first victory was in 1993, when its home state became the first to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ public school students. The organization went national two years later and, as of 2019, has 43 local chapters. It has registered over 4,000 Gay Straight Alliances in schools throughout the country and offers resources to student clubs, lesson plans to instructors, and training techniques to administrators.
Committed to mainstream political advocacy and organizing, the Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the nation. Formed partly in response to the rise of the conservative movement in the late 1970s, its first director, Steve Endean, saw a need to expand beyond state and local politics to national-level organizing. HRC works within existing structures to make heard its voice in elections, lobbying, and policy reform. Its annual "Corporate Equality Index" reports on the practices of leading companies in regards to their treatment of LGBTQ employees. In 2015, HRC claimed a whopping 1.5 million members.
For much of the 20th century, doctors would surgically assign gender to babies born with ambiguous genitalia, often without the parent’s knowledge. Cheryl Chase founded the Intersex Society of North America in 1993 to “end the shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries” for intersex people. ISNA has led to improved medical decisions as well as greater visibility to intersex people and increased scholarship on intersex issues.
Formed by volunteers in 1973, the nation’s largest public-interest law firm for the rights of LGBTQ persons was at first refused the right to exist by authorities in New York State who denied that furthering gay rights was a “charitable or benevolent” purpose. Short on funds in its early years, Lambda Legal worked as a “friend of the court” in New York before securing enough money to go national. Lambda Legal works on the local, state and federal levels and has been a part of the some of the most important LGBTQ judicial decisions such as the United States Supreme Court cases Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas.
Formed in 1973, the NGLTF grew out of the New York-based Gay Activists Alliance to become the first national LGBTQ advocacy group. In the 1970s, NGLTF helped end the federal ban on gay and lesbian employees, advocated for the first congressional gay and lesbian anti-discrimination bill, and helped arrange the first gay and lesbian meeting at the White House. In the 1980s, NGLTF helped overturn an Oklahoma law prohibiting teachers from speaking positively about anything gay or lesbian, initiated the era’s most significant LGBTQ anti-violence project, and mobilized the earliest campaign for a federal response to the AIDS crisis. Today, the NGLTF continues to fight for LGBTQ civil rights and equality by supporting the grassroots power of LGBTQ communities.
After the vicious beating of Gay Activists Alliance members and the refusal of police to intervene, Jeanne Manford marched in New York’s 1972 pride parade with a sign supportive of her gay son. Noting the emotional response it evoked, she determined to create a support group dedicated to bridging the gaps in understanding between heterosexual parents and their LGBTQ children. As of 2019, PFLAG’s more than 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters lobby for policies supporting LGBTQ people, including workplace equality, safe and welcoming schools, transgender rights, and ending reparative therapy practices.
SLDN formed in 1993 to support LGBTQ armed forces personnel in the wake of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. It brought to light the murder of soldier Barry Winchell after months of bullying. Ten years later, SLDN supported combat veteran Dan Choi when he effectively ended his career by coming out on national television. The organization helped introduce the first bill to repeal DADT to Congress in 2006, and helped support its passage in 2010.
TLC formed in 2002 to work for those discriminated against because of their gender identity or expression. TLC has worked on law, policy, and attitudes around transgender issues of legal name changes, immigration, AIDS services and prevention, safe access to restrooms, education, bullying, health care, marriage equality, treatment of prisoners, political advocacy, economic empowerment, and discrimination. It has helped facilitate municipal, state, and federal laws to protect transgender people and provided educational workshops to the public and the legal community regarding transgender law and issues.
Inspired by the success of the women’s donor network EMILY’s List, the Victory Fund formed to assist openly LGBTQ politicians gain office. In 1991, their efforts led to the election in Seattle of Sherry Harris, the nation’s first openly lesbian African-American city council member. Since then, it has supported thousands of openly LGBTQ elected officials who serve in all levels of government, and who have advanced LGBTQ rights across the country.