LGBTQ+ History of Minneapolis Highlights
Minneapolis has been at the forefront of progressive gender politics for more than fifty years. The city holds the largest annual free gay pride event in the United States, and was rated the most LGBT-friendly city by LGBTQ Nation in 2016.
This Pride month, the League of Women Voters Minneapolis remembers and honors the historic milestones achieved by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and other queer community members. Following is a brief timeline of significant ways the city made LGBT+ history over the past half-century; thank you to Andy Birkey for his 2014 summation.
1967 The Bi Alliance — reportedly the United States’ first public organization specifically for bisexual people — began at the University of MN.
May 1970 The USA’s first recorded same-sex marriage equality lawsuit was filed in Minneapolis by a gay couple who had been denied a marriage license. (Though the suit was dismissed in both the Minnesota and the U.S. Supreme Courts, in 2013 Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage and SCOTUS would reverse its decision 45 years later, legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States on June 26, 2015.)
October 1970 One year after the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, Minneapolis was the site of the first national gathering of LGBT groups, hosted by FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression).
1974–75 Minneapolis passed an ordinance banning discrimination due to sexual orientation. The next year, the City Council revised that law to include language that was more inclusive of trans people.
1976 & 1980 Allen Spear, the first openly gay man to serve in a state legislature, won re-election and continued to represent Minneapolis in the Minnesota Senate. Four years later, Karen Clark was elected and became the longest-serving openly lesbian member in a state legislature. She won re-election 18 times, representing parts of south Minneapolis until 2018.
1988 The International Gathering of GLBT Natives was hosted in Minneapolis (aka Bdeóta Othúŋwe and Gakaabikaang). The gathering was crucial to the launch of the modern Two-Spirit “cultural revitalization movement.”
As noted above, beginning in the 1970s, Minneapolis was one of the first cities to elect openly gay and lesbian political representatives. The city made history again just a few years ago, when in 2018 the USA’s first transgender City Council candidates Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham were sworn in.
The city also has a history of militant queer labor resistance. In 2014 You Better Work, a collection of queer, trans, and feminist workers’ stories, was published by queer labor organizers from Minneapolis and St. Paul.
During the past year, LGBTQ+ community members have also had an obvious presence at local Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests, including the 2020 uprisings after the police murder of George Floyd. League of Women Voters Minneapolis is proud to be part of a city that has been deeply supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, and acknowledges the community’s commitment to grassroots action on behalf of all Minneapolis residents’ civil rights.