Happy Pride! Milberg Reflects on Pivotal LGBTQI+ Legal Moments

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June 20, 2024

by Kaitlin Gagnon

At Milberg, we take pride in our longstanding commitment to supporting LGBTQI+ rights and recognize the significance of our legal platform during this year’s Pride Month. In celebration, we honor the resilience and achievements of the LGBTQI+ community by reflecting on the pivotal legal moments that have shaped a continued journey toward equality.

In an effort led by Summer Associate Ruby Moscone, the Milberg team has curated a timeline of momentous historical events that highlight the legal challenges and victories experienced by the LGBTQI+ community.

Join us as we commemorate these iconic milestones…


  • 1950: Founding of the Mattachine Society – One of the earliest LGBTQI+ rights organizations in the United States, founded by Harry Hay in Los Angeles, California in 1950. This society began secretly but soon grew in numbers and reputation, spanning membership across San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C. Mattachine Society members set the foundation for future LGBTQI+ activism.
  • 1961: Illinois becomes the first state to decriminalize sodomy
  • June 27-29, 1969: The Stonewall Riots – The Stonewall Inn is today, as it was then, a gathering place for the LGBTQI+ community in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Operating as a “private club” to circumvent the State Liquor Authority policy, which prohibited gay people from being served alcoholic beverages, the Stonewall Inn became the heart of New York’s underground gay community. From June 28th through July 3, 1969, LGBTQI+ patrons and members of the local community resisted a routine police raid, sparking a series of demonstrations over a six-day period. This defiance against police actions, known as the Stonewall Riots, became a catalyst for the modern LGBTQI+ rights movement.
  • 1975: The Civil Service Commission lifts its ban on the employment of gay people in the federal government
  • 1981: The Denver Principles – From 1981 through the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic spreads across the nation, critically impacting the gay community. Disinformation about HIV grew rampant, bolstering discriminatory and fear-inducing narratives around gay men. In 1983, a group of activists met to discuss the importance of self-determination for those most affected by HIV. The document they created became known as The Denver Principles, a healthcare “bill of rights” that reiterated the basic rights of “People with AIDS,” rejecting stigmatized terms like “victims” and “patients.”
  • 1982: Wisconsin becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • 1986: Bowers v. Hardwick – The Supreme Court rules that The Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a state from criminalizing private sexual conduct involving same-sex couples. This decision is later overturned by Lawrence v. Texas.
  • 1993: Baehr v. Lewin – Hawaii’s Supreme Court rules that the state must show a compelling reason for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This decision marked the beginning of a legal battle over same-sex marriage that would span decades.
  • 1996: Romer v. Evans – The Supreme Court determined Amendment Two of the Colorado State Constitution violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by singling out individuals based on their sexuality and using that identification to deny them official protections.
  • 1990/2000: Stonewall becomes the first LGBTQI+ site in the country to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1999) and named a National Historic Landmark (2000)
  • 2000: Vermont becomes the first state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples
  • 2000: Boy Scouts of America v. Dale – Boy Scouts of America argued that control over who is within their membership is a constitutional right of expressive association, even if this meant revoking the membership of an openly gay Eagle Scout (Dale) based on his sexuality. The Supreme Court upheld, ruling a private organization may exclude a person from membership (in spite of state law) when the person’s presence “affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” The BSA would later lift its organizational bans on gay scouts and leaders.
  • 2003: Lawrence v. Texas – The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down sodomy laws in 14 states, effectively decriminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity in the United States. Justice Kennedy stated in the opinion, “The State cannot demean [Lawrence and Garner’s] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government.”
  • 2004: Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage
  • 2011: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the policy prohibiting openly gay individuals from serving in the U.S. military, is repealed
  • 2013: United States v. Windsor – The Supreme Court strikes down a key provision of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby allowing married same-sex couples to receive federal benefits.
  • 2015: Obergefell v. Hodges – The Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
  • 2018: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Division – The Supreme Court held in favor of a cake maker who refused to design and bake a cake for a same-sex marriage, explaining that while same-sex couples are afforded civil rights protections, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cannot infringe on the owner’s religious and philosophical objections to same-sex marriage. The Court ultimately held these religious views against same-sex marriage as views protected under the Constitution, as well as protected forms of expression.
  • 2020: Bostock v. Clayton County – Gerald Bostock, a gay man, faced discrimination against his sexual identity while working at Clayton County, Georgia. After his involvement in a gay recreational softball league was made known to his employers, Bostock was terminated form his position. In this recent Supreme Court case, SCOTUS determined an employer who fires an individual in relation to their sexuality violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which prohibits employment discrimination based a number of identity characteristics, including sex. In the landmark decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion that held, “discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat employees differently because of their sex—the very practice Title VII prohibits in all manifestations.”


This year’s Pride Month reflection on the legal triumphs and tribulations endured by the LGBTQI+ community inspires Milberg’s continued efforts of legal advocacy and representation nationwide. Though the number of legal obstacles faced by the LGBTQI+ community soars far beyond this brief historical snapshot, we hope to provide the uplifting context and acknowledge the profound impact of legal action on behalf of marginalized communities.

Reports from the ACLU show that the number of anti-LGBTQI+ bills introduced in 2023 almost tripled that of those introduced the year prior, with 510 bills introduced nation-wide in 2023. This new record makes understanding our legal and social impact at Milberg that much more critical.

Milberg remains committed to providing legal aid and assistance, through local groups and services, to support efforts of progress and equality.

As champions for justice, we will continue to advocate for the rights and dignity of all individuals, throughout Pride Month and every other.