This book is intended to provide an easy overview of the many legal rights which are often demanded by advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The movement for LGBT rights has no specific beginning in time or place, as laws and conditions which prevented or inhibited LGBT people from openly expressing or pursuing their relationships or identity were commonplace. In much of the world, such laws were most commonplace in countries which explicitly or implicitly governed along Abrahamic religious mores; such mores were largely against the existence of sexual behavior or identity which did not conform with doctrine regarding heterosexual mating. Because of the long-standing prohibition on homosexuality, people who had sexual encounters with others of the same sex were often imprisoned, executed, released or prevented from employment, murdered, subjected to psychiatric torture and ostracized, and those who experienced same-sex attraction usually kept such encounters secret to prevent such outcomes.
It was from these conditions, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that individuals in various places, such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and Magnus Hirschfeld, began to not only question such mores on scientific and academic grounds, but also to investigate sexual experiences, including homosexual ones. While homosexual relationships were decriminalized in many places in the 19th century, punishments were slightly eased in many others which retained laws banning homosexuality.
Only in the 20th century did stirrings of challenges to anti-homosexual laws first manifest in Europe and other Westernized countries. By the 1950s, homosexual men and women began to establish self-help and support organizations, albeit under an initial cover of confidentiality. But the 1960s proved to be a revolutionary period, as openly-homosexual persons began to participate in protests. This culminated in the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, New York, which is considered by historians of the politics of the decade to be the beginning of an organized movement for civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people; the event was an altercation between police and patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, who had reacted against perceived harassment by police.
The following year, the first "pride march" was held in New York City to commemorate the riots, and in the years and decades afterward, more pride marches and parades were organized in cities around the world. Openly-gay men and lesbian women began to seek and win political office, and the first laws prohibiting discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity were enacted. It was also in the 1970s that "coming out", or openly declaring one's sexual orientation to family or the public, became a tool for revealing the gender and sexual diversity of persons in employment.
The 1980s saw the further elaboration of anti-discrimination protections for LGBT persons and employees, as well as the first stirrings of advocacy for relationship protections for openly-gay couples. It was also during this period that AIDS/HIV, a sexually-transmitted disease which destroys the human immune system, was first detected and found to take the lives of thousands of people, including gays and lesbians.
The 1990s saw the further development of same-sex relationship laws, with states enacting laws creating domestic partnership registries with limited rights for same-gender couples while prohibiting such couples from getting married. States also began to remove bans on openly-gay and lesbian people from serving in national militaries.
The 2000s saw the first laws legalizing same-sex marriages and adoption of children, a trend which continued into the 2010s. Meanwhile, the focus of LGBT rights began to expand into the treatment of LGBT students in educational institutions.