On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots began following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, one of New York City's best known LGBTQ clubs. Forty-seven years later, the site was declared a National Monument by Presidential Proclamation. The nomination for its status as a National Monument is in the National Archives Catalog.

Black and white photograph of the Stonewall Inn Historic site in New York City

A view of Stonewall Inn Historic Site 1999. National Register of Historic Places Registration, National Archives Identifier 75319963

The month of June was chosen to honor the LGBT+ community because of the Stonewall Riots, which are viewed as the beginning of the modern-day LGBT+ rights movement.
Photograph of the White House at dusk lit in rainbow colors. The Washington Monument can be seen in the background

The White House is lit with the colors of the rainbow in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, June 26, 2015. National Archives Identifier 176549838

Records at the National Archives constitute a rich documentary history of the experience of LGBT+ individuals. Here are a few examples of records from the National Archives Catalog documenting such experiences:

Baker v. Nelson

The earliest same-sex marriage case to be reviewed by the Supreme Court was Baker v. Nelson in 1972. On May 18, 1970, University of Minnesota students Richard Baker and James Michael McConnell applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis. The District Court Clerk of Hennepin County, Gerald Nelson, denied the couple’s application because they were both men. In response, Baker and McConnell sued the county office for discrimination, but the court dismissed the couple’s claims and ordered the clerk not to issue the license.

Typewritten document from the Baker v. Nelson case
Typewritten document from the Baker v. Nelson case
Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, Baker V. Nelson, #71-1027. National Archives Identifier 26318353

After their appeal was dismissed by the Minnesota Supreme Court, Baker and McConnell filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it was also dismissed “for want of a substantial federal question,” meaning the Court decided the issue did not directly relate to Federal laws. Although Baker and McConnell’s case was never technically heard by the Supreme Court, its dismissal set a lasting precedent against same-sex marriage, culminating in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996.

Gay Students Organization of the University of New Hampshire, et al. vs. Thomas N. Bonner, et al.

Typewritten page from the case file complaint
This file unit consists of documents comprising U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire civil action case number 73-279. Filed in 1973, this is one of the earliest cases involving gay and lesbian civil rights. In their complaint, the plaintiffs stated that the defendants had denied their constitutional rights, including those secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Image: Gay Students Organization of the University of New Hampshire, et al. vs. Thomas N. Bonner, et al., Complaint, 11/28/1973. National Archives Identifier 40945142

Aaron Fricke v. Richard B. Lynch

This file unit consists of material related to civil action case file number 80-214, Aaron Fricke v. Richard B. Lynch. The subject matter of this case file relates to redress sought by the plaintiff, an eighteen-year-old male high school student, who had been denied by school officials of attendance at a school function with a male companion.

National Archives Identifier 29033010

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Karen Ulane

Typewritten termination letter from Eastern Airlines to Karen Ulane

Karen Ulane was a transgender airline pilot who, after sex reassignment surgery, was fired from her job at Eastern Airlines. She sued her employer for sex discrimination and won but the case was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The case was from 1981 and an early legal precedent for transgender people. NARA has some of the evidence submitted in the case. Ulane died in a plane crash on May 22, 1989. View Karen Ulane’s record on Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC).

Image: Exhibit, Termination Letter #1, 4/24/1981, National Archives Identifier 12008912

Photograph of President Obama with Gilbert Baker, standing next to a framed Gay Pride Flag in rainbow colors

President Barack Obama views the Gay Pride Flag with Gilbert Baker, the artist who designed the flag, prior to a reception in recognition of LGBT Pride Month, in the Blue Room of the White House, June 9, 2016. National Archives Identifier 176549434

United States v. Edith Windsor

In the 2013 case United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, passed in 1996) unconstitutional. DOMA defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states, and prohibited married same-sex couples from collecting Federal benefits.

Typewritten file copy from the Supreme Court case US v Edith Windsor
Although it did not legalize same-sex marriage, United States v. Windsor was a milestone in the fight for marriage equality. The decision forced the Federal Government to treat same-sex marriages equally under the law and made tax benefits previously restricted to opposite-sex couples available to same-sex couples. However, this ruling only extended to Federal laws; individual states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages.

National Archives Identifier 29308667

Obergefell v. Hodges

Obergefell v. Hodges is a landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples and that all states must recognize marriages in other states regardless of sexual orientation. Learn more on the Pieces of History blog, Milestones on the Road to Marriage Equality.

Listen to the audio recordings of the Supreme Court argument and opinion in the National Archives Catalog:

Photograph of the White House lit in rainbow colors. A crowd of people gather in front to look and take photos
The White House is lit with the colors of the rainbow in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, 6/26/2015. National Archives Identifier 118817917
Visit National Archives News to browse additional LGBT+ records, holdings, and resources including:
Photograph of a group of people outside the White House celebrating the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. A group holds balloons spelling out "Love Wins"
People gather on Pennsylvania Avenue holding balloons that spell out "Love Wins" as the White House is lit with the colors of the rainbow in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, 6/26/2015. National Archives Identifier 138925688
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