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Government Information: LGBTQ History in Government Documents

A short tutorial on finding state and federal information.

About this page

This page is adapted from a presentation given at the 2016 Federal Depository Library Conference by Jesse Silva and Kelly L. Smoth.  The presentation, "We’re Here, We’re Queer, and We’re in the Public Record: Federal Government Documents on the LGBT Movement," highlighted a number of primary sources documenting the U.S. federal government's stance on issues related to the LGBT movement from the 1800s to the present day. These documents illustrate that, while our society may not be fully inclusive of LGBT people, our government is much more open than it was in the past. (

This page lists documents that were discussed in the presentation, including links to those that are freely available online.

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2020 Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (2020, June 15)

Supreme Court ruled that 1964 Civil Rights Act barring sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation.

2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018, June 4)

Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple because of a religious objection.

2018 Federal Register notice on NCVS Survey (2018, April 11)

Department of Justice proposes to stop asking 16- and 17-year-olds to disclose sexual orientation and gender identity on the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

2018 Lesbian and Bisexual Health Fact Sheet removed from HHS website (2018, February)

The resource was also removed from a list on the Office on Women's Health (OWH) fact sheets page. A pdf file with similar content is live as of June 2018 but is not linked from the OWH website, making it generally inaccessible.

2017 Census Bureau Statement on CBAMS Survey (2017, September 28)

Census Bureau planned to remove question about sexual orientation from the Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Survey (CBAMS) survey, which helps gauge why “hard to count” populations don’t respond to the census. Dropped the plan after resistance from Census advisors.

2017 Statement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Military Service by Transgender Individuals (2017, August 29)

Clarifies that currently-serving transgender personnel can continue serving while DoD develops a study and implementation plan.

Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security (2017, August 25)

Prohibits transgender individuals from serving in the military.

2017 Census Bureau Director's remarks on Census 2020 Planned Subjects (2017, March 29)

Draft of proposed questions for Census 2020 included questions about sexual orientation and gender identity; a revised draft was issued later the same day, omitting those questions.

2017 Federal Register notice on NSOAAP Survey (2017, March 13)

Department of Health and Human Services notice seeking comments on data collection for the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. Notice indicates there are no changes to previous survey, but the new draft excludes question about sexual orientation and gender identity asked in previous three years. Sexual orientation question eventually restored; gender identity question was not.

2017 Dear Colleague Letter on the Withdrawal of Title IX Guidance (2017, February 22)

Withdrew guidance to schools outlined in the 2016 Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.

2017 Removal of LGBT content from White HouseDepartment of Labor, and State Department websites immediately after Donald Trump's inauguration (2017, January)
2017 Apology for Lavender Scare (2017, January 9)

Secretary of State John Kerry issues formal apology for the Cold War-era persecution of gay State Department and Foreign Service officers.

2016 National Park Guide - LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History (companion Pride Guide released June 2019)

Springate, Megan E. (Ed.). LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History. Washington, D.C.: National Park Foundation, 2016.

2016 Presidential Proclamation -- Establishment of the Stonewall National Monument. (2016, June 24).
2016 Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students. (2016, May 13).
2015 Legislative Responses to Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage Address Potential Religious Implications, CRS Legal Sidebar (file courtesy of ProQuest)

Congressional Research Service. CRS-2015-AML-0417, October 29, 2015.

Summarizes The First Amendment Defense Act ("to prohibit the Federal Government from taking any discriminatory action against individuals or entities based on their religious or moral objection to same-sex marriage or extramarital sexual relationships") and the Equality Act ("to amend Federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation")

Obergefell Et Al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, Et Al., 576 U. S. 2 ___ (2015)

Fundamental right to marriage for same-sex couples

Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality. (2015, June 26)

2014 EEOC lawsuits on behalf of transgender employees

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Fact Sheet: Recent EEOC Litigation Regarding Title VII & LGBT-Related Discrimination (2016, July 8)

2013 United States v. Windsor, 570 U. S. 2 ___ (2013)

Struck down Defense of Marriage Act

2012 Tammy Baldwin First Openly Gay Senator Elected
The end of don't ask don't tell : the impact in studies and personal essays by service members and veterans

Essays by service members, published by the Marine Corp University Press

2011 Department of Education Youth Summit
2011 U.S. presses for LGBT human rights around the world

Memorandum on International Initiatives To Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons. (December 6, 2011.). Public Papers of the Presidents: Barack Obama (Book 2 ), p. 1524.

2010 Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed

U.S. House. Committee on Small Business. Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. H.R. 2965. 111th Congress, 2nd Session.

2010 Hearings on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

U.S. Senate. Committee on Armed Services.The Report of the Department of Defense Working Group That Conducted a Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of Section 654 of Title 10, U.S.C., "Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces". S. Hrg. 111-899. 111th Congress, 2nd Session.

2009 Fact Sheet: Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
2009 First occurrence of "bisexual and transgender" in the Public Papers of the Presidents

Proclamation 8387 - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2009. (June 1, 2009.) Compilation of Presidential Documents, DCPD-200900419

2009 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010

Public Law 111-84 [H.R. 2647], October 28, 2009 (Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act attached)

2007 Rep. Larry Craig airport scandal

U.S. Senate. Select Committee on Ethics. Public Letter of Admonition. (February 13, 2008).


Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2003)

Struck down sodomy laws

2000 Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U. S. 640 (2000)

Held that right to free association allows organization to exclude LGBT

1999 First Presidential Proclamation of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month

Proclamation 7203 – Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, 1999.  (June 11, 1999). Public Papers of the Presidents: William J. Clinton, p. 1089.

1996 Romer v. Evans, 517 U. S. 620 (1996)

Struck down Colorado Amendment 2 and set the stage for Lawrence v. Texas and later cases

1996 Defense of Marriage Act

Public Law 104-199 [H.R. 3396], September 21, 1996

Defined marriage as between one woman/one man and allowed states to not recognize same-sex marriages from other states

1994 First use of "transgender" in Congressional Record (Jesse Helms, NEA funding)

Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 103rd Congress, Second Session. Vol. 140 pt. 12. July 25, 1994, p. 17792.

1994 Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Employment: Legislation and Issues in the 103rd Congress (file courtesy of ProQuest)

First of a series of CRS reports discussing the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

1993 Department of Defense Directive 1304.26

U. S. Department of Defense. (1993, December 21). Department of Defense Directive 1304.26.

Implements Don't Ask, Don't Tell via Section E1.2.8 - Provisions Related to Homosexual Conduct

1991 First appearance of "lesbian" in Public Papers of the Presidents

Exchange with Reporters Aboard Air Force One. (June 6, 1991). Public Papers of the Presidents: George H.W. Bush (Book 1), p. 618.

1990 Immigration Act of 1990

101 P.L. 649; 104 Stat. 4978; 1990 Enacted S. 358; 101 Enacted S. 358, November 29, 1990

Removed homosexuality as grounds for exclusion from immigration to the U.S.

1990 Census includes "Unmarried Partner" option

U. S. Census Bureau. (2013, August). Frequently Asked Questions About Same -Sex Couple Households.

1990 Americans with Disabilities Act

101 P.L. 336; 104 Stat. 327; 1990 Enacted S. 933; 101 Enacted S. 933, July 26, 1990

  Specified that the term "disabled" or "disability" shall not apply to transvestites.

1990 In the Matter of Representative Barney Frank

U.S. House. Committee on Standards of Conduct. In the Matter of Representative Barney Frank. H. rpt. 101-610. 101st Congress, Second Session.

Frank was outed during investigation into affair with a male prostitute

1989 Rep. William Dannemeyer publishes anti-gay book, Shadow in the Land: Homosexuality in America, followed by a Congressional speech on sodomy in 1990

Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 101st Congress, Second Session. Extension of Remarks. March 1, 1990, p.E482.

1988 Surgeon General's "Understanding AIDS" Letter

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control. Understanding AIDS: A Message from the Surgeon General.

1988 Robert Mapplethorpe art exhibit opened in Philadelphia

Bauerlein, M. and Granthan, E. (Eds.). National Endowment for the Arts: A History, 1965-2008. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts, 2009.

Example of the NEH culture/funding wars of the 1980s-1990s

1987 President Reagan's first public remarks on AIDS epidemic

Remarks at the American Foundation for AIDS Research Awards Dinner, May 31, 1987. Public Papers of the Presidents: Ronald Reagan (1987, Book 1).

1986 Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U. S. 186 (1986)

 Upheld constitutionality of sodomy laws

1983 Rep. Gerry Studds becomes first openly gay member of Congress

U.S. House. Committee on Standards of Conduct. In the Matter of Representative Gerry E. Studds. H. rpt. 98-295. 98th Congress, First Session.

Studds was outed during investigation into the Congressional page scandal

1981 CDC first reports on AIDS

U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). A Timeline of HIV/AIDS.

1980 President Carter remarks on the ERA

Equal Rights Amendment Remarks at a White House Briefing, May 15, 1980. Public Papers of the Presidents: Jimmy Carter (1980, Book 1), p. 921.

1978 President Carter opposes California Proposition 6 (Briggs Initiative)

Sacramento, CA - Remarks at a “Get Out the Vote” Rally, Nov. 3, 1978. Public Papers of the Presidents: Jimmy Carter (1978, Book 2), p. 1949.

The failed Proposition 6 would have banned gays and lesbians from working in California's public schools.

1976 President Ford is asked about NEH funding a “homosexual conference” in San Antonio, TX, foreshadowing future NEH funding issues

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Republican Party Reception in San Antonio, April 9, 1976. Public Papers of the Presidents: Gerald R. Ford (1976, Book 2), p. 1031.

1975 "Civil Rights Amendments of 1975" introduced by Rep. Bella Abzug (file courtesy of ProQuest)

1975 H.R. 166; 94 H.R. 166, introduced January 14, 1975

To prohibit discrimination on the basis of affectional or sexual preference, and for other purposes

1975 First appearance of "homosexual" in Public Papers of the Presidents

Special Message to the Congress on Crime, June 19, 1975. Public Papers of the Presidents: Gerald R. Ford (1975, Book 1).

1975 Pros and Cons of Legalizing Victimless Crimes (file courtesy of ProQuest)

Congressional Research Service. CRS-1975-EPW-0055, June 10,1975.

Presents pro and con arguments for legalizing or decriminalizing certain victimless crimes, including consensual adult homosexuality

1974 Equality Act of 1974 (file courtesy of ProQuest)
U.S. House. H.R. 14752. 93rd Congress, Second Session. Introduced May 14, 1974.

To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes

1969 Norton v. Macy, 417 F.2d 1161 (D.C. Cir. 1969)

Held that civil servant can not be fired solely on basis of homosexuality


Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1 (1967)  

Invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage

1967 First appearance of "bisexual" in SCOTUS case

Boutilier v. INS, 387 U.S. 118 (1967)

1964 First appearance of "lesbian" in a SCOTUS case

A Quantity of Copies of Books v. Kansas, 388 U.S. 452 (1967) (per curiam)

1962 Manual Enterprises, Inc. v. Day, 370 U.S. 478 (1962)

Held that magazines consisting of photographs of nude male models are not obscene

1961 Supreme Court denies Frank Kameny's appeal of employment termination

Petition for Writ of Certiorari - Number 676 - Kameny v. Brucker. In Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1772-2007.

1958 One, Incorporated v. Olesen, 355 U. S. 371 (1958) (per curiam)

First SCOTUS case dealing with homosexuality; held for right to free speech

1954 Investigation of Communist Activities in the State of California (part 6 not available)

U.S. House. Investigation of Communist Activities in the State of California. Part 6: Hearing Before the Committee on Un-American Activities. 83rd Congress, Second Session, April 20, 1954.

1953 Executive Order 10450--Security requirements for Government employment

18 FR 2489, 3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 936

First inclusion of “sexual perversion” as basis for removal from federal employment

1952 First appearance of "homosexual" in SCOTUS case

Sweeney v. Woodall, 344 U. S. 86 (1952)

1951 Rosenberg Espionage Case Prosecution, and Sundry Atomic Energy Matters (file courtesy of ProQuest)

U.S. Congress. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Executive Session. Secret. JCAE document number CCLXXXVIII (Unpublished hearing), February 8, 1951.

Employment termination of Oak Ridge National Laboratory personnel director due to homosexual conduct

1950 Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government: Interim Report Submitted to the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department (Hoey Report)

U.S. Senate. S.Doc. 241. 81st Congress, 2nd Session, 1950.

1950 Employment of Moral Perverts by Government Agencies (McClellan Report) (file courtesy of ProQuest)

U.S. Senate. Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments. S. rpt. 1746. 81st Congress, Second Session, 1950.

1950 Report of the Investigations of the Junior Senator of Nebraska on the Infiltration of Subversives and Moral Perverts into the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government (file courtesy of ProQuest)

U.S. Senate. Committee on Appropriations for the District of Columbia. S. print 4179. 81st Congress, Second Session, 1950.

1945 First appearance of "bisexual" in the Congressional Record

Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 79th Congress, First Session. Vol. 91 pt. 10. February 20, 1945, p. A741.

1942 First appearance of "homosexual" in federal court case

Cain v. Universal Pictures Co., Inc., 47 F. Supp. 1013 (S.D. Cal. 1942)

1927 First appearance of "lesbian" in the Congressional Record

Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 69th Congress, Second Session. Vol. 68 pt. 3. February 8, 1927, p. 3267

1927 First appearance of "homosexual" in the Congressional Record

Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 69th Congress, Second Session. Vol. 68 pt. 2. January 19, 1927, p. 1943.

1917 Immigration Act of 1917

U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Immigration. Immigration Laws (Act of February 5, 1917): Rules of May 1, 1917. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1917.

Used to exclude homosexuals from immigration to U.S. based on their status as “persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority”

1902 Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1902: Report of Director, and paper on Zuni Indians (The Zuni Indians: Their Mythology, Esoteric Fraternities, and Ceremonies)

Discussion of We'Wha, a Zuni man who dressed and lived as a woman in her tribe.

1893 First appearance of "homosexual" in Serial Set

U.S. Department of State. Pan-American Medical Congress. Transactions of the first Pan-American Medical Congress, held in the City of Washington, D. C., U. S. A., September 5, 6, 7, and 8, A. D. 1893.  Serial Set 3162-2 S.exdoc.36.  53rd Congress, 2nd Session.

1889 Contributions to North American ethnology, vol. 7: Dakota-English dictionary

Native American words for "sodomy"

1880 Report on the defective, dependent, and delinquent classes of the population of the United States, as returned at the tenth census

U.S. Department of the Interior. Census Office. [Census Reports] Tenth Census, v. 21 (June 1, 1880). 1988.

Prisoners for buggery, sodomy, etc by state

1877 Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration

Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, Special. Joint. Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration. Serial Set 1734 S.rp.689. 44th Congress, 2nd session.

Racism and sodomy

1873 Comstock Law

17 Stat. 598

Suppression of trade in and circulation of obscene material

1848 Report of the Secretary of the Navy, communicating copies of returns of punishments in the Navy, in compliance with a resolution of the Senate. Serial Set 510 (file courtesy of ProQuest)

S.exdoc.69. 30th Congress, first session

Sodomy conviction and punishment in the Navy


Laws passed by the Legislature of Florida. Message from the President of the United States, transmitting laws passed by the Governor and Legislative Council of Florida

U.S. House of Representatives. Serial Set 420, Session 3, H.Doc. 72. 27th Congress, Third Session. January 19, 1843.

Sodomy and buggery laws


Laws for the District of Columbia

U.S. House. Committee on the District of Columbia. Laws for the District of Columbia. Serial Set 200, H.rpt.269.  21st Congress, 1st session.

Sodomy and buggery laws