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Sexual Orientation–Based Legal Discrimination: United States

Since the late 19th century, American federal and state governments, the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, psychiatrists, and social conservatives have attempted to restrain same-sex desire, known pejoratively as sodomy and homosexuality. Homosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals were oftentimes under investigation by police, psychiatrists, and courts. Only late in the 20th century did supportive communities overturn harmful labels and challenge the legal punishments and social stigmas imposed by unsupportive heterosexuals.

In early-20th-century Times Square in New York City, working-and middle-class men nurtured short-term sexual relationships, but their intimacy was threatened when the mayor and councilors ordered police to arrest men caught in same-sex liaisons. The encounters were considered sodomy and were illegal in the state. Although culprits were rarely convicted, gays ...

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