The 1950’s brought extreme discrimination towards gay people, who were constantly brutalized by police and the public alike. Not only were gays ostracized from their families and communities, but also in 1953, gays were officially banned from the military. President Eisenhower passed a law that legalized the right to fire an employee, simply because they were homosexual. The report claimed that since homosexuality was a mental illness, they constituted security risks. During this time, almost 5,000 gay men and women were fired from their government jobs (Timeline). Most companies joined in on the purge, and the U.S. Postal Service even placed tracers on suspected homosexuals’ mail in order to gain evidence to arrest them. This law, which caused what is known today as the “lavender scare,” stood until 1993. Thousands of gays were wrongfully kicked out of armed services and a lot of them were unfortunately dumped in port cities, including San Francisco. Many of them felt too embarrassed or disgraced to go home, so they stayed there (Same-Sex Unions).
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, California, America’s first national gay rights organization was formed. Harry Hays, a gay rights activist founded the Mattachine Society to change public views on homosexuality, and to ‘“eliminate discrimination, derision, prejudice and bigotry,” to assimilate homosexuals into mainstream society, and to cultivate the notion of an “ethical homosexual culture.”’ This organization, however, was mainly underground due to the fact that they were not legally allowed to do much activism; small victories were not celebrated publicly, and members of the organizations could only advertise by posting flyers in areas where gays were known to congregate (Ford). The Mattachine Society was only one of many gay rights groups founded in the 20th century. Another important organization was the Metropolitan Community Church, which was founded because other churches condemned gays. Today is still the largest LGBT religious organization in the country (Timeline).
Perhaps the most pivotal moment in the gay rights movement was the Stonewall Riots, which occurred in June