Honoring LGBTQIA+ Historical Leaders Who Fought For Housing Rights

Even though the Fair Housing Act, enacted in 1968, protected Americans from housing discrimination, it only covered these seven classes: race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, disability, and biological sex. The Act did not extend to sexual orientation and gender identity until last year when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recognized the history of housing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals and offered legal protection to those affected for the first time. Several individuals who fought for fair housing for the LGBTQIA+ community shaped the movement that led to this historic decision.

This pride month, we honor the historical leaders who fought to end housing discrimination by championing affordable housing and whose contributions have gotten us where we are today.

A photo of transgender icon Marsha P. Johnson
Picture Credit: Netflix

A transgender drag performer, sex worker, and activist, Marsha P. Johnson was pivotal in the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising in New York City, which gave birth to the modern LGBTQIA+ movement and changed the United States' history.

She became the first vice president of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which provided accommodations for transgender youth experiencing homelessness.

A black and white photo of Sylvia Rivera looking to the right

Johnson's friend and confidant, Sylvia Rivera was also an American gay liberation and transgender rights activist. Rivera was a noted community worker in New York who founded STAR where Johnson worked.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), founded after Sylvia's death, continues its mission to assist trans, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people.

Harvey Milk in Black and White smiling at the camera during one of his political campaigns
PC: Anisfield Wolf

The movement also found its way to the West, where Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians elected to office in California and the United States, introduced legislation to protect the gay community in 1978. The bill included a gay rights ordinance to ban discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals in housing or employment.

He also fought for issues affecting the entire San Francisco population, including access to affordable housing and daycare for working mothers.

Trailblazers like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Harvey Milk, who dedicated themselves to advancing liberation and freedom, give us the courage to continue the fight for housing equity because, despite the progress, LGBTQIA+ individuals continue to face inequities when seeking housing. By expanding supportive housing and encouraging housing providers to integrate inclusive housing and services for their LGBTQIA+ tenants, CSH is continuing to work towards the equitable future our leaders imagined.

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