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June is Pride Month: A timeline of LGBTQ+ history in Texas

Alexis Simmerman
Austin American-Statesman

In case you missed it, June is Pride Month − a time to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community. As Texans partake in the festivities, some may remember key moments in the state's queer history. While queer people have always existed, they have fought for equal rights for decades − and continue to do so.

Here's a look back at Texas queer history, beginning with the first public Pride events in the 1970s. Many other LGBTQ+ spaces existed prior to this − such as a sanctuary called the in the 1930s − but there was a distinct shift 50 years ago when the community took to the streets, demanding to be seen and acknowledged by the general public.

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1970s: A movement is born

Pride events in Texas date back to the 1970s, following the June 1969 riots at New York City's Stonewall Inn. The Gay Liberation Front and Gay Women's Liberation were among the groups that organized the state's first public Pride events.

From NYC to Austin:Stonewall's ripple through LGBTQ Austin

In 1972, an LGBTQ+ couple was on the grounds the relationship was inappropriate despite no law against it. A year later, the state of Texas deemed marriages to be between "a man and a woman."

Dallas hosted its first Pride parade in 1972 with between 250 and 300 people, . The festivities turned into an impromptu march, as participants marched downtown with signs and chants for gay liberation to a crowd that grew to about 3,000. Although the event appeared in local newspapers, the first official Dallas Pride parade wouldn't occur until 1980.

In June 1976, Austin Mayor Jeff Friedman declared a Gay Pride Celebration Week.

Late 1970s: Activism grows

However, Texas' LGBTQ+ community didn't always gather in celebration. On June 26, 1977, a group gathered alongside other civil rights groups in downtown Houston to protest singer Anita Bryant. Bryant had been an activist against gay rights and led a successful campaign to repeal a Dade County ordinance that protected queer individuals against discrimination in housing, employment, loans and public accommodations, . Bryant was to perform in the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

What was initially planned as a small protest among a few dozen activists outside the hotel drew over 10,000 supporters, . This shocked even the event's organizers, who had hoped to see 500 join.

Houston held its in 1979. Among those marching was activist-turned-mayor Annise Parker.

The Project PRIDE SRQ Car Parade on Saturday started on Main Street in downtown Sarasota and proceeded toward Tamiami Trail where it reached its final destination at The Reserve. The party continued with dancing, food and drinks throughout the afternoon.   MATT HOUSTON / HERALD-TRIBUNE

1980s: A challenging decade for the LGBTQ+ community

The AIDS epidemic peaked in the 1980s, hitting the cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin and proving to be deadly. Although treatment and prevention efforts have become more effective since, with HIV/AIDS as an underlying cause of death.

The activism of real estate developer and nightclub owner Arthur "Hap" Veltman prompted San Antonio's first Pride Picnic in 1982. The next year, Tavern Guild, an organization of LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs, took over the Dallas Parade and moved it to September to honor the initial Baker v. Wade decision. Veltman died in 1988 of complications from AIDS. His colleague Gene Elder became the director of the Happy Foundation Archives, a resource named after Veltman that documents gay and queer history in San Antonio and Texas.

The 1984 decision on Gay Student Ƶ v. Texas A&M University solidified the requirement of public universities to uphold students' First Amendment rights after the university failed to acknowledge an organization supporting queer students.

The initial ruling of Baker v. Wade in 1982 briefly challenged Texas' sodomy law − which Penal Code Section 21.06 defined as "deviate sexual intercourse" − which targeted LGBTQ+ relationships. However, a court of appeals reversed the decision in 1985.

Texas LGBTQ+ rights entering the 21st Century

The state of Texas outlawed the issuance of to same-sex couples in 1997. In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed another state statute declaring the state would not recognize such marriages or any other form of family status.

In 1999, the Supreme Court case Littleton v. Prange voided a marriage involving a trans woman on the grounds it fell under the category of same-sex marriage. The same year, President Clinton declared June "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month" and again in 2000. President Obama continued this in 2009, and it as "LGBTQ Pride Month" in 2021.

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Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the in 2001, which increased the penalties for crimes motivated by a person's trait. This included sexual orientation but not gender identity. Two years later, same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas.

In 2012, Texas Tech student Kat Cade cofounded the Lubbock PRIDE festival. It is the only organization in Lubbock to host annual pride events, . The city of Beaumont hosted in 2014.

LGBTQ+ rights in the past decade

June 26, 2015, was a day of celebration when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. That year, 2,500 same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Texas, .

However, many LGBTQ+ rights have recently been challenged. In 2017, a law regulating bathroom use for transgender individuals after months of debate among lawmakers. The same year, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3859, which allows state welfare programs to based on religious belief.

Activists wave progress pride flags as they and hundreds of others march toward the Capitol in a Queer Capitol March on Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Austin. Activists gathered to protest recent anti-LGBTQ legislation in Texas.

In 2019, the cities of Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso passed non-discrimination ordinances for persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

passed in 2021 restricted K-12 student-athletes from participating in sports that didn't align with their genders assigned at birth. Last year, Gov. Abbott expanded this to collegiate-level sports.

Twenty-five states, including Texas, currently have , affecting around 39% of all transgender youth. Texas has no law that specifically bans discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ activists protest a bill banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender children at the Texas Capitol Friday, May 12, 2023.

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A March 2021 survey by the Williams Institute found the Austin-Round Rock metro area had one of the highest percentages of LGBTQ+ people among U.S. cities. Only ranking below the San Francisco-Bay Area in California and Portland, Oregon, 5.9% of the metro's population identified as LGBTQ+.