[Editor's note: On Sunday, August 6, Vancouver will celebrate human rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people with the city's 28th annual Pride Parade. The world has come a long way since Sweden decriminalized homosexuality more than 60 years ago. The timeline below documents the changing rights landscape in Vancouver and around the world.
Although much has been accomplished, there is much left to do. While this list largely documents progress, it's progress that is hardly reflected equally around the world. Here at home, we must acknowledge that changing rules is one thing and changing attitudes is quite another.
The list is necessarily partial and largely legal. We could compile a list as long as this one on the topic of AIDS alone. In Vancouver, the resistance to the creation of a public memorial for those who died from AIDS is a story in itself. We invite and encourage you to add other milestones and reflections in the comments section below.]
- In 1944, Sweden decriminalizes homosexuality.
- In 1945, the liberation of concentration camps by Allied forces; those interned for homosexuality are required to serve the full term of their sentences.
- In 1946, the COC (the Dutch acronym for Centre for Culture and Recreation), the earliest homophile organization, is founded in the Netherlands.
- In 1950, the Mattachine Society, the first American homophile group, is founded in New York.
- In 1955, the lesbian homophile group Daughters of Bilitis is founded in San Francisco.
- In 1958, the Homosexual Law Reform Society is founded in the United Kingdom.
- Illinois becomes the first U.S. state to remove the law prohibiting sodomy from its criminal code.
- The Association for Social Knowledge (ASK) is formed in Vancouver. The oldest known homophile organization in Canada, it produced the ASK Newsletter, which ceased publication in February 1968.
- Everett Klippert is arrested after admitting homosexual preferences to police in the Northwest Territories. He is deemed a "dangerous sexual offender" by psychiatrists and is eventually sentenced to life in prison. He is released in 1971, following public pressure to reform Canadian law on homosexuality.
- The National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations is established. (It becomes NACHO, North American Conference of Homophile Organizations, in 1967).
- The ASK Community Centre opens at 1929 Kingsway, to "serve the homosexual community." It was the first centre of its kind in Canada.
- Oscar Wilde Books, the world's first gay and lesbian bookstore, opens in New York City.
- Homosexuality is decriminalized in Canada as a result of legislation introduced by then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau.
- The Stonewall riots occur in New York City, as gays clash with police following a June raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar.
- Vancouver's first gay issues newspaper column, by Kevin Dale McKeown, debuts in the Georgia Straight.
- The Vancouver Gay Liberation Front forms.
- The first Canadian gay rights march takes place in Ottawa.
- Canada's first gay liberation newspaper, The Body Politic, is first published in Toronto and continues for 15 years.
- The Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE) holds founding meetings in Vancouver, and develops civil rights strategies.
- Sweden becomes the first country in the world to allow transgendered people to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy.
- The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its DSM-II Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, based largely on the research and advocacy of Evelyn Hooker.
- Gay Pride Week becomes a national celebration in Canada, occurring in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg. Political theme: sexual orientation in provincial human rights codes.
- In Vancouver, GATE publishes the first issue of Gay Tide.
- The Vancouver Sun refuses to run a classified subscription ad for Gay Tide. GATE organizes a demonstration outside the Sun's office.
- Robert Grant founds American Christian Cause to oppose the "gay agenda," the beginning of the modern Christian Right in America.
- GATE files a complaint against the Vancouver Sun with the B.C. Human Rights Commission regarding the Sun's refusal to print a classified ad for Gay Tide. It becomes the first gay-related case to reach the Supreme Court of Canada.
- Large-scale protests take place in Quebec and Ontario after police raid gay establishments as part of the lead up to the 1976 Olympics.
- The Canadian University Press approves a national boycott of CBC for refusing to air a public service announcement for a Halifax gay group.
- The British Columbia Board of Inquiry rules in the Gay Tide/Vancouver Sun case that the B.C. Human Rights Code provides protection for homosexuals. The Vancouver Sun's subsequent appeal in the same year is dismissed.
- Harvey Milk is elected as a city-county supervisor in San Francisco, becoming the third openly gay American elected to public office.
- Quebec becomes the first jurisdiction (larger than a city or county) in the world to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" in the public and private sectors.
- The B.C. Court of Appeal reverses the B.C. Supreme Court ruling favouring Gay Tide, saying that the Sun had "reasonable cause" not to print the ad.
- San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
- The rainbow flag is first used as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride.
- The Canadian Immigration Act is amended, removing a ban on homosexuals as immigrants.
- Vancouver holds its first Pride Parade.
- The Vancouver Sun reverses its stand and accepts the ad from Gay Tide after a five-year court battle. The Supreme Court of Canada rules the Sun had "reasonable cause" to refuse advertising.
- Publisher Ron Langen launches The Biline, a monthly gay tabloid.
- Norway becomes the first country in the world to enact a law to prevent discrimination against homosexuals.
- On February 5, police raid four gay bathhouses in Toronto and make more than 300 arrests. As a result, an estimated 3,000 people pour into the streets of Toronto to protest the raid. The incident becomes a catalyst in the development of Toronto's Gay Pride Week, which is now among the world's largest pride events.
- The fifth Bi-National Lesbian Conference in Vancouver draws women from across Canada, and launches its first lesbian pride march.
- The world's first Gay Games takes place in San Francisco.
- Canada patriates its constitution, adding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15 of the Charter doesn't explicitly list "sexual orientation" as an invalid basis of discrimination under the law, but the section is designed to permit the addition of new grounds by the courts.
- Angles, a magazine about Vancouver queer life, launches.
- France prohibits discrimination based on lifestyle in employment and services.
- The first memorial to gay Holocaust victims is dedicated.
- Sexual orientation is added to the Ontario Human Rights Code as a prohibited ground for discrimination.
- Canada Customs seizes a gay magazine called The Advocate from Little Sister's Bookstore, sparking a lengthy court fight that is eventually heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1994, and the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000.
- Manitoba and Yukon add sexual orientation to their Human Rights Acts.
- The Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein and Edmund White is declared not obscene by B.C. courts on May 3, and allowed past Canada Customs for the first time.
- Sweden is the first country to pass laws protecting the social services, taxes and inheritances of gays and lesbians.
- NDP Member of Parliament Svend Robinson (Burnaby) is the first Canadian MP to come out.
- Denmark is the first country in the world to enact registered partnership laws (comparable to civil union) for same-sex couples, with most of the same rights as marriage.
- The Canadian Human Rights Commission defines a homosexual couple as a family.
- Gay Games III takes place in Vancouver, with 9,500 participants from around the world.
- The first Dr. Peter Diary airs on CBC, bringing an engaging medical perspective and personal face to the much-misunderstood disease, AIDS.
- Sexual orientation is added to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
- The World Health Organization removes homosexuality from its ICD-10 (the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems).
- Canada lifts its ban on homosexuals in the military.
- Sexual orientation is added to the human rights laws of New Brunswick and British Columbia.
- Dr. Peter dies November 15 after 111 Dr. Peter Diaries. A film version of the diaries would win an Oscar nomination in 1994.
- Sexual orientation is added to B.C. human rights laws as a prohibited ground for discrimination.
- Current Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson is the first openly gay person to be ordained by the United Church.
- Norway enacts civil union laws that grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, except for the right to adopt or marry in a church.
- Saskatchewan adds sexual orientation to its Human Rights Act.
- Xtra! West debuts in Vancouver.
- The American Medical Association denounces supposed cures for homosexuality.
- The Canadian Supreme Court rules that gays and lesbians can apply for refugee status based on sexual orientation.
- Little Sister's Bookstore challenges Canada Customs on the issue of censorship in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Pierre Berton, Nino Ricci and Jane Rule are some of the prominent writers who speak in defence of the bookstore. The case eventually goes to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000.
- The Dr. Peter Centre opens its doors in March.
- Sweden legalizes registered partnerships (civil unions) with all the rights of marriage except for marriage in a church and adoption.
- The Supreme Court of Canada rules that sexual orientation is be "read in" to Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- Ontario allows gay and lesbian couples to adopt.
- The Newfoundland Human Rights Act is amended to include sexual orientation.
- South Africa becomes the first nation to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution.
- Sexual orientation is added to the Canadian Human Rights Act, an anti-discrimination law that applies to federally regulated activities throughout Canada.
- Glen Murray is elected Mayor of Winnipeg and becomes the first openly gay mayor of a large North American city.
- The Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act is amended to include sexual orientation.
- Israel's supreme court recognizes a lesbian partner as another legal mother of her partner's biological son.
- The Supreme Court of Canada rules that gay and lesbian couples are to have the same rights as heterosexual common-law couples.
- Sexual orientation is included in the newly adopted Nunavut Human Rights Act.
- Vermont becomes the first U.S. state to legalize civil unions.
- The Canadian federal government passes a bill amending 68 federal statutes, including pension benefits, bankruptcy protection, income taxes, old age security and immigration, among others. Legal marriage, however, remains defined as being between a man and a woman.
- Little Sister's Bookstore's case against Canada Customs is heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, which eventually rules in the bookstore's favour. The power of Canada Customs to stop "obscene" books and magazines from entering the country is curtailed by the court's ruling.
- The Netherlands legalizes same-sex marriage.
- NDP MP Libby Davies becomes Canada's first openly lesbian Member of Parliament.
- UBC offers a minor in Critical Studies in Sexuality for the first time.
- Controversial, openly gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn is assassinated by Volkert van der Graaf.
- Sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the Northwest Territories Human Rights Act.
- The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down remaining state sodomy laws.
- The British Columbia Court of Appeal unanimously orders the British Columbia government to sell marriage licenses to same-sex adult couples, and to register their marriages. It is the second province to legalize same-sex marriage, after Ontario.
- The Anglican Church in the Greater Vancouver area (the Diocese of New Westminster) blesses its first same-sex union.
- Massachusetts legalizes same-sex marriage in May, while 11 other U.S. states ban the practice through public referenda in the November elections. In Canada, 85 per cent of the population lives in a province or territory with same-sex marriage.
- Sexual orientation is added to the "hate propaganda" section of the Canadian Criminal Code, making it illegal to propagate hate based on sexual orientation.
- The Supreme Court of Canada rules that the federal government has the exclusive authority to define marriage, and that same-sex marriage is constitutional.
- The UK introduces civil partnerships with rights equal to marriage.
- South Africa's Supreme Court rules that it is illegal, under the country's constitution, to ban gay marriages.
- Canada becomes the fourth country to officially sanction gay marriage nationwide, after Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
- A B.C. Supreme Court judge in Nanaimo grants British Columbia's first gay divorce. Divorce had previously been defined as between a man and a woman.
- An attempt to stage the first-ever gay pride march in Moscow ends with violence and mass arrests.
- The first regional Eastern European Pride, Internacionala Pride 2006, takes place in Zagreb, Croatia.
- The B.C. Ministry of Education agrees to add an elective social justice course that includes gay and lesbian issues to the high school curriculum.
Rob Peters is on staff at The Tyee.
Thanks to the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, VancouverHistory.ca, Flaunting It! by Ed Jackson and Stan Persky, Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium, SameSexMarriage.ca, Wikipedia, CBC and CBC Archives, the BCLA Intellectual Freedom Committee, ReligiousTolerance.org, and the Vancouver Pride Society. We welcome additions to and refinements of this list. For extensive Pride Parade photos, visit Flickr.
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