Monday, June 17, 2019

LGBTQ+ History and Pride in Massachusetts

Happy Pride Month from the State Library of Massachusetts!

Massachusetts has been home to a thriving LGBTQ+ culture throughout its history. In the late 20th century, LGBTQ+ activism came to the forefront following events like the Stonewall Riots in New York City. In 1971, the first official Pride March took place in Boston. Several years later in 1978, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) organization was founded in Boston. Cultural organizations, like the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus founded in 1982, also popped up as activists fought for acceptance and civil rights.

The Massachusetts government was also changing at this time. In 1974, Elaine Noble became the first openly lesbian or gay candidate to be elected to a state legislature. In the same year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court also presided over the landmark case Commonwealth v. Balthazar regarding the legality of same-sex sexual activity. In 1989, Massachusetts became the second state to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations.

Elaine Noble, the first openly gay candidate
to be elected to the Massachusetts State
Legislature, listed in the Public Officers of the
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1975-1976)

In the 1990’s, the impact of continuous LGBTQ+ activism was even more visible in the Massachusetts state government. Previous laws prohibiting same-sex couples from acting as foster parents were rescinded thanks to the work of GLAD and the ACLU. In 1992, Governor William Weld began supporting certain rights for LGBTQ+ state employees and also appointed a Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, which published several reports throughout the 1990’s including Recommendations for the support of gay/straight alliances in Massachusetts (1996), which is available online. He also appointed a Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, which was instrumental in implementing and amending both the Hate Crimes Reporting Act and the Hate Crimes Penalties Act in the 1990’s.

In late 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health found the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In 2004, Governor Mitt Romney ordered town clerks to begin issuing marriage certificates to couples beginning May 17, 2004. That day, over 75 same-sex couples would marry throughout the state, making Massachusetts the first state in the United States where same-sex marriage was legal.

Panel from the State Library of Massachusetts’ exhibit on
Massachusetts Firsts regarding the legalization of same-sex
marriage in 2004.

But political activism for the LGBTQ+ community is not finished and continues today. According to Boston Magazine, Massachusetts has the second-largest LGBTQ+ community in the United States as of 2018. Governor Baker re-established the Task Force on Hate Crimes in 2017, and also signed legislation that included protections for transgender individuals in public restrooms. In 2018, the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts voted against removing protections that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, which was added to the Massachusetts General Law in 2016. Governor Baker also signed legislation that banned conversation therapy in Massachusetts in 2019.

The State Library of Massachusetts welcome LGBTQ+ researchers, organizations, and groups. Please take a look at our catalog and DSpace Online Repository for state publications related to LGBTQ+ communities and history.

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff