Today in LGBT History – December 17

When I first came out in 1979, Orlando NOW was my rock. Through that organization, I become involved with Florida NOW and met many amazing women including then Florida NOW president Patricia Ireland and singer Holly Near. The politics, the women, the music lifted me in ways that fed my heart during this time of intense sadness in my life. They kept me going, helped me to survive, and guided me into my future. I am forever grateful for the National Organization for Women. I hope you find that which guides you to safety as well.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!

Today in LGBT History – December 17

1760 – Deborah Sampson Gannett (December 17, 1760 – April 29, 1827), who fought in the American Revolution disguised as the soldier Robert Shurtlieff, is born. She was a Massachusetts woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. She is one of a small number of women with a documented record of military combat experience in that war. She served 17 months in the army under the name “Robert Shirtliff” (also spelled Shirtliffe or Shurtleff), was wounded in 1782, and was honorably discharged at West Point, New York in 1783. During World War II the Liberty Ship S.S. Deborah Gannett (2620) was named in her honor. As of 2001, the town flag of Plympton incorporates Sampson as the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In her speech at the Democratic National Convention on July 26, 2016, Meryl Streep named Sampson in a list of women who had made history.

1963 – The New York Times runs a front page story titled “Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern.” It told of a series of police raids on gay bars and arrests.

1969 – Falsetto singer Tiny Tim (April 12, 1932 – November 30, 1996), perceived by many to be gay because of his voice and mannerisms, marries his girlfriend, Miss Vicki, on national television. He is best remembered for his hit “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

1970 – Nine leaders of the women’s liberation movement, including Gloria Steinem and Susan Brownmiller hold a press conference in NYC to express their “solidarity with the struggle of homosexuals to attain their liberation in a sexist society.”

1979 – United States District Court for the Central District of California Judge Irving Hill rules that the marriage of Australian Anthony Sullivan and US citizen Richard Adams, under a license issued by Boulder County, Colorado in 1975, is not valid for purposes of Sullivan’s immigration.

1982 – The film “Tootsie” premieres. It is an American comedy in which a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman in order to land a job.

1987 – Morton Downey Jr. is arraigned on charges of attacking a gay guest on his television show.

1990, UK – The OutRage Christmas Celebration for London’s extended Queer family is held in Covent Garden.

1990 – Connecticut State Rep. Joseph Grabarz (D) (born 1957) comes out.
He becomes Connecticut’s first and only openly gay state legislator. At the time he was the lover of actor, playwright, and voice actor Harvey Fierstein (born June 6, 1954).

1990 – Three same-sex couple request marriage licenses in Honolulu. The clerk initially agrees but a supervisor does not allow the request.

1991 – Karen Thompson is named Sharon Kowalski’s (born 1956)  legal guardian after an eight-year fight. In re Guardianship of Kowalski, 478 N.W.2d 790 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991), is a Minnesota Court of Appeals case that established a lesbian‘s partner as her legal guardian after she became incapacitated following an automobile accident. Because the case was contested by Kowalski’s parents and family and initially resulted in the partner being excluded for several years from visiting Kowalski, the gay community celebrated the final resolution in favor of the partner as a victory for gay rights. The Minnesota Court of Appeals rule in Thompson’s favor on December 17, 1991. Thompson attorney commented: “This seems to be the first guardianship case in the nation in which an appeals court recognized a homosexual partner’s rights as tantamount to those of a spouse.” The two women continue to live together, along with another woman, Patty Bresser, in what Thompson calls her “family of affinity,” and they all continue to speak out about LGBT and disability rights. Their story has been documented in the film Lifetime Commitment: A Portrait of Karen Thompson.

1992 – Patricia Ireland (born October 19, 1945), president of the National Organization for Women, comes out as bisexual. She is a U.S. administrator and feminist. She served as president of the National Organization for Women from 1991 to 2001 and published an autobiography, What Women Want, in 1996. Immediately following Ireland’s appointment to president of NOW, questions arose about her sexual orientation. On December 17, 1991 she gave an interview with The Advocate, in which she stated that she was bisexual and had a female companion while remaining married to her second husband.

1997, UK – British Secretary of State Chris Smith writes a letter of apology to the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association for having wreaths removed immediately following a ceremony of remembrance.

1997 – Under an agreement with New Jersey state child welfare officials, same-sex couples in the state are granted the right to jointly adopt children. 

2007, Hungary – The Parliament gives the same rights to registered partners as to spouses with some exceptions: adoption, IVF access, surrogacy, and taking a surname.

Stand up, speak out, share your story!




(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at,, Lavender Effect,, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia. If you wish to edit an item or add an item, please send an email to me at Thanks!)

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