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Thu Oct 10, 2019, 03:32 PM

GLBT History Month: 1972, gay people spoke at the Democratic National Convention for the first time

As another presidential candidates town hall on LGBTQ issues approaches – with the first out major candidate – let us remember when not only were there no out LGBTQ elected officials, but no out gays had ever been allowed to speak from the podium at a national political convention.

That changed at the July 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami thanks to candidate George McGovern. It seems a tiny step today but was huge given the times.

Homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. President Eisenhower’s 1953 ban on gay employees was still government policy. Only three cities had passed nondiscrimination ordinances, and two of them applied only to municipal employees. The first effort at a federal gay rights bill was two years away.

Fledgling attempts for marriage equality had been quickly smothered by the courts. In March that year, when gays demonstrated at Quantico, Virginia, for an honorable discharge for an 18-year old Marine, a gunnery sergeant was heard saying, “I wish I had a grenade. I’d drop it right in the middle of them.” Forty-six states still criminalized consensual, private same sex acts.

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