What formal and informal structures fueled the Gay Rights movement?
The catalyst to the organized gay rights movement in the United States — what instigated work toward gay rights being a movement — was the Stonewall riot in New York City on July 28, 1969. Officers raided the illegal Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, leading to several days of confrontations between the police and gay people. Pro-gay demonstrations culminated in the first gay pride parade. After that, gay people began to realize they could fight back against the legal, social, and psychological stigmas that kept them in the closet.
As of 1969, homosexuality in the United States was classified as a mental illness — a form of deviance — and sodomy was illegal. Because of this, gay people were largely forced into underground lives. After 1969, as the movement took off in the heady period of political activism and social change in the late sixties and early seventies, the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front groups formed. Awareness of gay issues led the American Psychiatric Association in 1974 to reclassify homosexuality as an ego" disturbance" rather than a form of mental illness.
In the 1980s, the spread of AIDS fueled a new chapter in the gay rights movement, as gay people both formally and informally fought back against the idea that AIDS was a "gay" disease. ACT UP was started in 1987 to campaign for gay rights. In recent years groups like EQUALITY NOW have advocated for gay marriage rights, which has the formal focus of gay activism since the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws in the 1990s.
It is easier to document formal than informal structures that fueled the gay rights movement, but a growing awareness that gay people exist and a growing tolerance for divorce, cohabitation, and other non-traditional social formations after the 1960s helped build social tolerance for and sympathy toward the gay rights movement as a whole.
The Gay Rights movement gained traction because of a combination of legal precedents that were defined during the civil rights movement and a solid grassroots movement that rallied the LGBTQ community around the nation.
The informal grassroots movement applied pressure to the courts who were initially reluctant to get involved in the struggle. Colleges and Universities were also breeding grounds for important social activities that protested the exclusion of LGBTQ individuals.
The Civil Rights movement had massive gains in the 60's and that influenced the enforcement of laws that had previously restricted the equal protection status of minority citizens.