The Christian American Nightmare
In 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick the U.S. Supreme Court held that states have a right to criminalize even private and consensual sexual behavior. Specifically the court said Georgia had a right to punish Michael Hardwick for sodomy even though his act occurred in private. The police officer who over-heard and then witnessed Hardwick’s act had entered the house in order to speak to one of Hardwick’s housemates about a traffic violation. Officer Bowers placed Hardwick under arrest in his own bedroom.
The following year, 1987, the second March on Washington was held. It was one of the largest civil right demonstrations in this country’s history, drawing more than 650,000 . The next day 5,000 demonstrators converged on the Supreme Court steps, and an organization new even to most lesbian and gay Americans, ACT-UP, made its first national appearance. Gay politics, like gay lives, had changed dramatically since Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society only thirty-seven years before.
Things have changed. However, in many respects life has not gotten any easier. The FBI tells us violence against gay people and destruction of gay property and establishments is on the rise, and the crimes committed against us are getting uglier and deadlier. There are efforts in dozens of states and localities to repeal anti- discrimination laws where they exist and to prohibit them where they do not yet exist so that non-heterosexual people will have no avenue for changing the laws that affect them. More and more people are out of the closet, but while that may relieve and liberate in some ways, it also makes people easy targets for discrimination and hatred.