Why is the gay rights movement so successful?

The answer isn't what one might expect. Photo: gay rights rally/ AP

OCALA, Fla., January 9, 2014 — Being gay in America is no longer considered criminal or a mental disorder. While there is still a great deal of prejudice against gays, the social stigma of being gay is receding across the country. As states drop same-sex marriage bans and gays serve openly in the armed forces, non-heterosexual has become mainstream. 

The short period in which popular opinion has shifted is remarkable. The legalization of same-sex marriage has occurred entirely in the last 10 years. Same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 states 10 years ago; it is now legal in 18.


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Most of the change has occurred in the last five years. What happened in this period? 

“The resurgence of Log Cabin Republicans has shown the gay rights movement that gay conservatives need to be a part of the conversation if equal rights for gay Americans are to become a reality,” says Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. 

“For a while the left cynically brushed aside gay conservatives, but through our victories in Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal and the support of Republican elected officials we’ve been able to secure, Log Cabin Republicans has shown that we are a force to be reckoned with, and forced the left to acknowledge that they no longer hold the mantle of gay rights. Gay conservatives are here to stay, and they all have a home in Log Cabin Republicans.”

Fred Karger is a Republican political operative who consulted on the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole, among others. During the 2012 election cycle, he became America’s first openly gay presidential candidate.


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“The over two years leading up to both marriage rulings (Prop 8 and DOMA) by the U. S. Supreme Court last June were the real watershed moments for LGBT rights,” Karger explains. “There was so much public attention on these two successful cases, along with the five plaintiffs telling their stories, that the American public will forever be moved by these heroes.”

The change in public attitude toward non-heterosexuals should not be understated. What role has the gay rights movement played in bringing this about?

Angelo claims, “The courage exemplified by ‘Joe and Jane American’ folks who happen to be gay, and who also live their lives as out gay Americans in their respective communities, has changed the way straight Americans think about gay Americans and gay rights more broadly. It’s not those gay Americans on TV, nor the gay liberal elites, but instead it’s the everyday gay Americans who live their lives with bravery as out citizens that has shifted public opinion on these matters most significantly. 

“Gay Americans are everywhere; we always have been. It’s just that now more and more Americans are waking up to that fact.” 

Karger says, “there are so many new and younger activists who have moved the ball forward and are assuming leadership roles in the gay rights movement. These leaders are able to build on the extraordinary work of the LGBT movement founders and longtime activists. After years of losses at the ballot box and in public opinion, we are heading in a new direction and not looking back.

“Chad Griffin is a prime example of the change in leadership that has been occurring. Chad now runs the largest LGBT political organization in the country, the Human Rights Campaign – HRC. Chad’s background in politics and government affairs has mostly been in the private sector. He has brought in the best and the brightest to fight for LGBT rights like attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies. Together these top notch lawyers successfully overturned California’s Proposition 8 and took the case all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.”


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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