Civil Disobedience Handbook from the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1987. John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives

Coming Out for Equality

Reaction to Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986

‘Coming out’ has long been an important political strategy for the LGBT rights movement. Harvey Milk said, “Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out.” But ‘Coming out’ can also mean showing up—being present and being counted. In the decades following the Stonewall riots, it became imperative for members of the LGBT community to both publicly acknowledge their true selves and stand up for their rights.

“. . . the lower court has taken an activity which for hundreds of years, if not thousands, has been uniformly condemned as immoral and labeled that activity as a fundamental liberty protected by the Constitution. . . .”

—from Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers’ brief to the Supreme Court, 1985

“. . . if sexual relations between consenting adults are not part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution, then American democracy is in trouble."

—activist and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, 1986