When hundreds rioted in Greenwich Village, New York, following the 1969 raid of the popular gay bar, The Stonewall Inn, igniting the gay rights movement in America, it is unlikely that any of them gave much thought to the public administrative implications of their actions. Their goals were much more fundamental. They wished to live in peace, free from fear of violence or arrest simply for acknowledging their sexual orientation.
Today, just a few decades later, the work of gay rights pioneers throughout the nation has transformed the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) people. Nowhere is that change more evident than among young people, who today often find that the acceptance of communities and institutions allows them to form high school organizations for GLBT students and their friends.
With that progress comes new challenges. Public administrators are confronted with significant issues when dealing with people in the GLBT community. Great progress has been made in many states and communities throughout the country, but there is still a long way to go before people in the GLBT community achieve equality. The progress that has been made is inconsistent. While the state of Vermont has broken new ground with the legal recognition of same-sex partners, until very recently, some states still embraced the archaic sodomy laws.
Although states and communities may develop model policies, they are not necessarily best suited to communities where attitudes are still evolving. For public administrators and policy makers to simply understand the challenges is difficult when the GLBT community is not at the table. “Out of sight, out of mind” is often the rule.