From politicians to parents to activists, this list of 45 trailblazers has some familiar names, and some that might surprise you.
This year’s New York City Pride marks the 45th anniversary of the historic 1969 Stonewall riots.
At 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay dive in the New York’s Greenwich Village. The evening quickly turned from raid to riot, with patrons refusing to hand over identification and fighting back against authorities. Only one known photograph was taken during the night of the riots. It appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News the following day and depicts several homeless youth taking on the police.
This event is widely considered the catalyst for the the modern gay rights movement, which has birthed many notable heroes – as well as some notable antiheroes. We couldn’t possibly list them all, but we’ve done our best to compile a diverse list of 45 people — both well-known heroes and everyday folks, with a decided emphasis on the latter (no celebs) — who have made a lasting impression in the ongoing fight for equality. Please add your own suggestions in the comment section, and Happy Pride 2014.
To see more about what led to the progress of Pride 2014, make sure to tune in toTrailblazers on Thursday, June 26th at 9/8c on LOGOTV.
Scroll down to see our 45 trailblazers…
Sgt. Leonard Matlovich
Vietnam vet Sgt. Leonard Matlovich was the first gay man to disclose his sexual orientation in the military while serving in the U.S. Air Force. His photograph, along with the headline “I Am a Homosexual” appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975 edition of TIME. In addition to being the first openly gay American soldier, Matlovich was also the first to appear on the cover of an American news magazine.
Aaron Fricke made headlines in 1982 when he successfully sued his high school in Cumberland, Rhode Island, for barring his boyfriend from the senior prom. He is the author Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story About Growing Up Gay.
Edie Windsor became a household name when, at age 81, she successfully sued the U.S. federal government over the Defense of Marriage Act. The verdict was a landmark victory for gay marriage, declaring DOMA unconstitutional, and marking the first time that the federal government recognized same-sex marriage.
In 1979, John Kuiper, a reverend, became the first gay man in America to win the right to adopt a child. At the time, Judge James Battista of Greene County Family Court in Albany, New York, remarked, “The reverend is providing a good home.”
Audre Lorde was an outspoken writer, feminist and civil rights activist. Prior to her passing in 1992, she published over a dozen books in her lifetime and received international recognition for her work. Four years later, the The Audre Lorde Project, a community center and advocacy group for LGBT people in New York City, opened its doors in her memory.
Lt. Dan Choi
Lt. Dan Choi served in the Iraq war from 2006-2007. After coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009, he publicly challenged the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which banned gay soldiers from serving openly in the U.S. military.
Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. served as a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from 1969 through 1989. He courageously took on his own homophobic political party when he became a champion for AIDS funding, HIV prevention and anti-discrimination law.
Renée Richards is an ophthalmologist, author and former professional tennis player. In 1975, she underwent sex reassignment surgery. In 1976, she was denied entry into U.S. Open by the United States Tennis Association, citing an unprecedented “women-born-women” policy. Richards challenged the ban in court, and in 1977, the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor.
In 1975, former NFL running back, David Kopay, became one of the first professional athletes to come out, Three years after he retired, he penned the best-selling novel, The David Kopay Story. Nearly 40 years later, he remains a powerful voice for gay athletes. He currently serves on the board of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.
In addition to advising Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin worked tirelessly for gay equality until his death in 1989. In 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
Stormé DeLarverie was a gay rights activist who fought police during the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, she performed as the only drag king in the Jewel Box Revue. She died earlier this year at the age of 93.
Jack Baker and Michael McConnell
Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are a gay couple from Minneapolis, MN who, in 1970, applied for a marriage license. When they were denied, they sued the state. They took their case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was declined “for want of a substantial federal question.” Though they ultimately did not win the case, their numerous interviews and appearances on national TV helped raise public awareness to the issue of marriage equality at a time when even gay activists ignored or downplayed the cause.
Mable Hampton was an activist and a philanthropist. In addition to making financial contributions to many gay and lesbian organizations, she marched in the first National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington and spoke at the 1984 Gay Pride rally in New York City.
Arizona state Senator Steve Gallardo made headlines earlier this year when he came out to his colleagues while arguing against SB 1062, Arizona’s failed attempt to legalize discrimination. Standing before the Senate Caucus, he proclaimed: “I’m gay, I’m a Latino, and I’m a senator. And it’s okay.” Afterwards, Gallardo said he “couldn’t care less” if being openly gay hurts his chances at future political victories. “This is about standing up and doing the right thing,” he said.
In 1957, Frank Kameny was fired from his job with Army Map Services. In 1961, he argued against the firing in the U.S. Supreme Court. The court denied his petition, but it was a notable moment because it was the first sexual orientation civil rights claim. A decade later, in 1971, Kameny became the first openly gay man to run for Congress. In June 2009, he stood beside President Obama during the signing of the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which provides benefits for same-sex partners of federal government employees. He died in 2011, and his papers are collected in the Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution.
Essex Hemphill’s poems and essays were featured in a number of widely-read publications, including Gay Community News, The Advocate, and Essence. His most famous book, Ceremonies, examined the sexual objectification of black men in white culture, interracial gay couples and how HIV/AIDS impacted the black community. Hemphill died of complications from AIDS in 1995.
In 1950, Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society, the first major gay rights group in the U.S. In 1966, he and his partner John Burnside served as organizers of one of the country’s first gay protests.
In September 1951, Christine Jorgensen, an American transgender female, became the first person in the U.S. to have sex reassignment surgery. The story of her transformation made the front page of the New York Daily News in December 1952. She became an instant celebrity and used her platform to become a leading advocate for the cause well before its time. On her deathbed in 1989, Jorgensen famously said she gave the sexual revolution “a good swift kick in the pants.”
Anthony D. Romero
Anthony D. Romero is currently the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is the both first Latino and first openly gay man to hold the powerful position in the prestigious organization.
Tom Waddle founded the Gay Olympics in 1982 in San Francisco. Throughout the 1980s, he worked at the City Clinic in San Francisco, which was re-named the Tom Waddell Clinic after his death from AIDS in 1987. It was the first public health clinic in the U.S. to offer Primary Care specifically for transgender men and women and remains in operation today.
E. Denise Simmons
E. Denise Simmons was the mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts during the 2008-2009 term. She was the first openly lesbian African-American ever elected mayor in the U.S. She’s currently serving her seventh two-year term on the Cambridge City Council.
Michael Maltenfort and Andy Thayer
Michael Maltenfort and Andy Thayer made headlines in 2001 when they chained the doors of the Marriage License Bureau inside Chicago’s City Hall after being denied a marriage certificate. This picture of the arrest is now one of the most iconic images from the fight for marriage equality.
Ruth Simpson was the founder of the first lesbian community center. Her 1976 book From the Closet to the Courts chronicled her time as president of Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization.
José Sarria became the first openly gay candidate to run for public office, in this case San Francisco supervisor in 1961. Though he lost the election, he received a large number of votes from the emerging community, ultimately setting in motion the “gay vote,” the notion that by voting as a block, like other minority groups, we wield significant power at the ballot box.
Former NBA center John Amaechi came out in his 2007 memoir Man in the Middle (written with Queerty’s editorial director Chris Bull), landing him on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. He become the first former NBA player to reveal his sexual orientation, earning him the title of “one of the world’s most high-profile gay athletes” by the BBC. Amaechi, known for his acerbic wit and willingness to take on NBA legends such as Jerry Sloan, helped lay the groundwork for the NBA’s Jason Collins and other athletes to be themselves.
Laverne Cox is an actress and trans rights activist. In June 2014, she became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time.
José Gutierrez is a longstanding advocate for the gay Latino community. He is the founder of the Latino GLBT History Project.
Bella Abzug, nicknamed “Battling Bella,” was a feisty U.S. Representative gay rights activist from New York. In 1977, she gave an impassioned speech before a crowd of 3,000 people in Dade County, Florida.
Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo
The two same-sex couples led the charge to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage in the U.S. Supreme Court. Their 2013 victory played a large role in the advancement of equality not only in the Golden State, but in the country as a whole, helping to set a precedent for other state’s to follow.
Playwright, AIDS firebrand and gay rights activist Larry Kramer co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in the early 1980?s, which went on to become the world’s largest private organization assisting people living with AIDS. His Tony Award-winning play The Normal Heart was recently made into a film starring Mark Ruffalo and moved many, including President Obama, despite tepid reviews.
Stephen Ira, the transgender son of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, used his platform to speak on behalf of trans people in New York last year when he partnered with GLAAD and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. He appeared in a PSA, “Healthcare For All,” which lobbies against a New York state Medicaid regulation that denies coverage to transgender people.
Judy Shepard is the mother of the late Matthew Shepard and co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocates for LGBT rights in America. For years, she lobbied for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act to be signed into law. President Obama signed the bill in 2009.
Former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom directed the San Francisco city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, despite a state law that banned the practice. Newsom ignored critics who were concerned that he was getting ahead of the issue too fast, too soon; however, bold moves were soon proven to be wise. The California Supreme Court eventually nullified the marriages, but Newsom’s actions brought national attention to the scandal of marriage inequality and gave momentum to an important political and legal movement for change.
The Star Trek luminary George Takei has become a leading light in the struggle for equality. He has been a vocal advocate for same-sex marriage and has appeared in a number of PSAs promoting equality. In 2014, he was awarded the GLAAD Vito Russo Award for his contributions. His Facebook page has over six million fans.
How could one not include Cher on a list of heroes? In addition to entertaining legions for more than half a century, she was a vocal supporter of the LGBT community long before most other celebrities. And let’s not forget she has been a role model for countless drag queens. Her son, Chaz Bono, has also become a leader in the fight for transgender equality.
Mary Cheney has grown into a mature advocate for her cause, first appearing with her partner at her father Dick Cheney’s Republican campaign appearances, and then tangling with her sister Liz’s opposition to same-sex marriage, calling her “dead wrong.” She is also partly responsible for Dick Cheney’s own “evolution” on the issue.
Janet Mock is a trans activist. In 2011, she publicly proclaimed her identity in an article for Marie Claire. Her book, Redefining Realness, was released earlier this year and became an instant bestseller.
Barbara Gittings founded the New York City chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the U.S. She was also one of the leading activists, along with Frank Kameny, who successfully lobbied the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, a move that put science squarely on our side.
Tom Stoddard served as executive director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York from 1986 to 1992. He was one of the first gay activists to publicly encourage marriage equality.
Dave Pallone was a Major League Baseball umpire for 10 years. In 1989, he was outed by the New York Post. A year later, he published a memoir, Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball, about his experiences as a gay man in MLB. In 2013, he became one of the first inductees to the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
Roland Palencia is the community benefits director at the L.A. Care Health Plan and board member of the LGBT Latino Political Action Committee. In 2011, he briefly served as Executive Director of Equality California. From 1992 to 1998, he worked as the Vice President and CEO of the international AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Palencia is also the founder of the community-based organization Gay and Lesbian Latinos.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
In addition to voting to strike down both DOMA and Prop 8 in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013,Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first Supreme Court justice in history last August to officiate a same-sex wedding ceremony.
An inspiration to Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning is a former U.S. Army soldier who was convicted of violating the Espionage Act in July 2013 after releasing classified documents to the public. The day after her sentencing, Manning came out as a trans woman, saying she would now like to be referred to as Chelsea and that she hoped to begin hormone replacement therapy.
Former chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Melham came out publicly in 2010, making him one of very few prominent openly gay figures in the Republican Party. Afterwards, he lobbied Republican lawmakers for marriage equality, as well as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In November 2013, he launched Project Right Side, a non-profit focused on encouraging Republicans to support equal rights for gays.
At just 11 years old, Marcel Neergaard successfully launched a petition to strip antigay Tennessee Representative John Ragan of an award for “Education Reformer of the Year.” Neergaard is already a prominent anti-bullying activist.
Morris Kight is widely considered one of the forefathers of the gay civil rights movement. He founded and co-founded many gay and lesbian organizations, including the Gay Liberation Front, the Christopher Street Gay Pride Parade, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the Stonewall Democratic Club. He also served on the County of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission for 20 years.
Watch the trailer for Logo’s Trailblazers below.
Originally published at queerty.com