Gay and lesbian civil rights

Cal Anderson giving a speech. Washington State Archives. Washington state House of Representatives Photograph Collection 1988.


Over the past 35 years, some of the most contentious civil rights debates have focused on homosexual people. Issues such as job rights, marriage, and civil unions remain unresolved.


Start with secondary sources 

Use secondary sources to gain basic knowledge of your topic, its significance, and historical context.

Ask a Librarian online at Washington State Library to get expert help in locating useful secondary sources. 


Then use primary sources

Use primary sources to deepen your understanding of the topic, and assemble evidence to support your own analysis and interpretation.

Ask an Archivist online at Washington State Archives to get expert help in locating useful primary sources.


Some key historical research questions:

  • How did gay and lesbian civil rights advocacy groups come into being?
  • What was Stonewall, and what role did it play in the gay and lesbian rights movement?
  • What is “Hands Off Washington,” and why was it formed?
  • When people who take outspoken stands on gay and lesbian civil rights use the term “special rights,” what do they mean?
  • Is there a difference between “special rights” and civil rights?
  • If so, what is the difference?
  • What does “don’t ask, don’t tell” mean?
  • What is Northwest Proud, and what role has it played?
  • How has AIDS affected gay and lesbian civil rights?
  • What is the Pride Foundation, and what role has it played?
  • What groups have opposed gay and lesbian civil rights and why?
  • What tactics have groups on both sides used?
  • Have they been successful?
  • Consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret this topic.


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