On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.
The ruling comes 46 years after a catalyst for the modern LGBT rights movement, the Stonewall riots. The riots were sparked by a series of police raids of bars—including the Stonewall Inn—in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a center of the city’s gay population. Hundreds of men rioted and “threw bricks, bottles, garbage, pennies and a parking meter” at police, according to the New York Times. Fighting against unjust harassment, some 400 were caught up in the melee, and 12 were arrested.
Slow and moderate progress followed in the 1970s and early ‘80s. A conservative backlash and discriminatory hysteria at the onset of the HIV/AIDS pandemic stalled that progress, but by the early ‘90s, LGBT groups coalesced, gaining visibility and demanding tolerance. Long-sought legal victories over the next 20 years were coupled with shifting cultural attitudes across much of the nation.
When political issues, such as same-sex marriage, are constantly in focus, the community of people behind the legislation and court battles are often overlooked. They are people of every race and religion, in every country, walking the road from exclusion to acceptance.
This gallery of photos from the National Geographic archive highlights the path to progress and the formation of an identity within the social landscape. Due to the lack of past reporting on LGBT issues, the photos only reach back to the dawn of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s.