Conservative Backfire, 1980s and 1990s
The AIDS-HIV epidemic struck the nation hard in the early eighties. Not only were doctors not ready for the epidemic, but they also had no idea as to how people developed the virus or where the illness was coming from. Five pneumonia deaths rapidly became forty-one incidents of a “rare cancer,” and the CDC purposely documented that all the victims were homosexual men.
So, early on, Americans tagged the HIV virus “the gay disease,” and a panic began to develop in the LGBT community, as most worried that the federal government would soon sequester them to control the epidemic.
AIDS hysteria during the 80s also involved the notion that HIV was contracted through kissing and hugging LGBT people or that someone could even get the virus from using public bathrooms or from mosquitoes that previously bit homosexual people.
“I know one man who was impotent who gave AIDS to his wife,
and the only thing they did was kiss.”
–Pat Robertson, 1982.
None of the urban legends materialized, but the HIV epidemic in the 80s absolutely caused heterosexual people to fear the LGBT community even more, and the disease also altered the way the LGBT observed themselves as a free-loving society.
Even after the general public learned what HIV was about and learned how to avoid infection, the silly preconception that LGBT folks were somehow responsible for bringing the virus to America stuck.
This stigma, in addition to the fact that homosexual men and women did not quit championing their civil rights, is what triggered an escalation of hate crimes against the LGBT community, which rose significantly from the late 80s into the mid-90s.
In 1987, one LGBT hate crime was committed approximately every hour.
LGBT men and women were assaulted, murdered, harassed, and victimized in practically every state in the union during this period. However, the LBGT community did not lie down; they soon created aNational Gay Task Force to organize an anti-violence initiative.
The Task Force’s objective was to release hard facts, numbers and testaments, which US lawmakers and US Supreme Court Justices could not ignore. Their efforts soon result in the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1988, which President George H. W. Bush endorsed into law in 1990, making it a federal crime for any violent act that involves hatred based on sexual orientation.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 quickly followed, which included harsher punishments for individuals associated with hate crimes.
“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”
It really seemed like things were looking up for the LGBT civil liberties initiative; unfortunately, along came what was most likely the country’s final “conservative” full-force effort at limiting gay rights.
President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in 1996, which allowed states to nullify same-sex marriages; socially conservative organizations like the Family Research Council were responsible for pushing the DOMA bill through Congress.
Now, are you saying I can never marry the one who I love?
The Supreme Court of Hawaii demanded that the federal government take a position on same-sex marriages, or else the states would begin to take matters in their own hands, which gave birth to the DOMA (a.k.a. the civil liberties killer among the LGBT community).
Although the new law did offer a sense of relief for those Americans who worried that LGBT couples would soon have the right to wed in their own state, the measure itself would quickly become short-lived.