• Pride Month is observed in many parts of the world in June.
  • Its roots have been traced back to the Stonewall uprising in New York City.
  • But the global struggle for LGBTI rights transcends any single event.

On a warm June night in 1969 something typical for the era happened, when police in New York City raided a popular gay bar. Something less typical followed: the gay patrons fought back.

The Stonewall uprising sparked several days of skirmishes between the police and gay, lesbian and transgender people weary of constant harassment that featured tear gas, a fire bomb, and kick lines. It's widely cited as the inspiration for what much of the world now celebrates as Pride Month every June.

The collective struggle for LGBTI rights predates Stonewall, however, and extends far beyond the borders of any single country.

A few years before Stonewall, the organization Personal Rights through Defense and Education (PRIDE) was founded in Los Angeles (it’s been cited as likely the first application the word “pride” to gay politics). Shortly after that a large LGBTI rights demonstration in 1967 followed the police raid of a Los Angeles gay bar called the Black Cat, which came after yet another Stonewall precursor, the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot in San Francisco.

Roughly 70 years earlier, Magnus Hirschfeld had founded a trailblazing gay rights organization in Berlin. He later co-wrote a film seen as a plea for the abolishment of Germany’s law prohibiting homosexuality, and fled the country before the Nazis destroyed his research institute and began forcing homosexuals imprisoned in concentration camps to wear the pink triangle that’s now a symbol of gay pride.

In the UK, the Buggery Act of 1533 made homosexuality punishable by death. The penalty shifted to imprisonment in the 19th century, and Oscar Wilde was famously jailed and ruined as a result. A few years before Stonewall, the Beaumont Society was established in the UK to support transgender rights, and in 1970 the Gay Liberation Front was founded in London.

In Brazil, the organization Grupo Gay da Bahia was founded in 1980 and has played a vital role in monitoring anti-gay and anti-transgender violence; in India, the first recorded protest for gay rights was held in Delhi in 1992 following instances of police harassment; and in France, where a 1960 indecency law was used to target gay people, the revolutionary fervour of 1968 – the year before Stonewall – included calls for the recognition of LGBTI rights.

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Image: World Economic Forum

Roughly four years after Stonewall, the American Psychiatric Association relented to pressure and removed homosexuality from its list of official mental illnesses, marking a major turning point in the US for LGBTI rights.

In 2003, the US Supreme Court did away with sodomy laws in the country, and in 2015 the court ruled that all states must recognize same-sex marriages. Still, less than half of the country’s population lives in states where discrimination protection based on sexual orientation is offered in “broad terms,” according to the organization ILGA World.

In Germany, the law prohibiting homosexuality that Magnus Hirschfeld sought in vain to have overturned was finally abolished in 1994. In 2017, the German Parliament approved same-sex marriage.

Private homosexual acts between men were decriminalized in the UK in 1967. Same-sex marriage has been progressively legalized throughout the country over the past decade.

Civil Society

What is the Forum doing to boost inclusion for LGBTI people?

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity not only violates universal basic human rights, it also adversely impacts the long-term economic prospects of individuals, businesses and countries.

An initiative of the World Economic Forum, the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality (PGLE) leverages the power of business to promote LGBTI equality and inclusion in the workplace and take wider responsibility not just for the impact they have on their employees lives but also on the broader communities in which they operate.

closeup of a young caucasian man waving a small rainbow flag against a rustic blue wooden background
Discrimination against members of the LGBTI community continues to affect millions of people worldwide every day
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

PGLE partners work together to:

  • Operationalize the five United Nations Standards of Conduct for Business Tackling Discrimination Against LGBTI People by providing a due-diligence framework, tools and resources for companies to advance and implement LGBTI inclusion globally (see here)
  • Provide a peer to peer learning platform connecting committed business leaders through the World Economic Forum in accelerating LGBTI workplace inclusion and promoting human rights for all
  • Share best practices and benchmarks to assist companies in meeting their commitments and responsibilities to global LGBTI equality.

Follow the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality and help us advance this agenda, protecting and promoting human rights in the workplace.

Contact us to become a member or partner of the Forum.

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court ruled in 2019 that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in the country’s anti-discrimination law, and the court’s made several other rulings strengthening LGBTI rights. The country legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.

India’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual gay sex in 2018.

In France, where same-sex marriage has been legally recognized since 2013, Paris renamed a handful of central squares in 2019 to honour efforts to win LGBTI rights. Among the new names: Place des Émeutes-de-Stonewall.

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Image: World Economic Forum

For more context, here are links to further reading from the World Economic Forum's Strategic Intelligence platform:

  • The innovative program in Philadelphia profiled in this piece pays landlords to house LGBTI young people – who make up about 40% of the local unhoused population aged between 18 and 26. (Next City)
  • A disproportionate number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are undermined, humiliated and discriminated against at work, according to this analysis, which argues that one way to counter this is by engaging in “allyship.” (The Conversation)
  • There’s no simple story of global progress for gay rights, according to this piece, and that complexity means we shouldn’t necessarily romanticize the incremental gains that have been made. (The Conversation)
  • As the “homophile movement” coalesced in the 1950s, newly-welcoming churches and other religious institutions were important for LGBTI activists who desperately wanted to reconcile their religion and sexual orientation. (JSTOR Daily)
  • LGBTI-forward organizations have the resources needed to set up data systems (and train healthcare workers) to sensitively collect information that could help tailor COVID-19 treatments to vulnerable populations, according to this piece. (Wired)
  • Activists pressing to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatry Association’s list of mental illnesses went right to the source by disrupting APA conferences. They succeeded despite being attacked as “maniacal and schizophrenic,” according to this analysis. (JSTOR Daily)

On the Strategic Intelligence platform, you can find feeds of expert analysis related to LGBTI Inclusion, Human Rights and hundreds of additional topics. You’ll need to register to view.

Image: World Economic Forum