Were ideas of sexual orientation and gender identity ‘essentially unknown’ in 1964?

Saturday, June 27, 2020
By Mollie Jo Blahunka

The Supreme Court's majority opinion prohibiting LGBT discrimination at work cast doubt on Justice Samuel Alito's claims about prevailing attitudes in 1964, when the law at issue was enacted. Justice Alito wrote in his dissent that "it would have been hard to find any [American] who thought that discrimination because of sex meant discrimination because of sexual orientation--not to mention gender identity, a concept that was essentially unknown at the time."

A timeline of the gay-rights movement notes that the first known gay-rights group in the U.S. was founded in 1924. The first lesbian-rights organization was founded in 1955. A gay magazine won a First Amendment case in a 1958 Supreme Court decision. Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1962.

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