Gays and lesbians have been a 'despised category,’ historian says at Prop. 8 trial

Historians in the News

During the second day of a high-profile trial on same-sex marriage, a historian told a federal court that laws and police practices throughout U.S. history show gays and lesbians have been a "despised category," a minority that have been arrested, fired, harassed and censored because of sexual orientation.

"Gay life really was pushed underground," New York University history professor George Chauncey testified this afternoon....

Chauncey cited early bans in the colonies against "nonprocreative" sex and later laws that banned sodomy. Police in large cities and small towns over the decades used vagrancy laws to arrest gays and lesbians and then informed their employers, landlords and families about the nature of the charges, Chauncey said....

"The fear of homosexuals as child molesters or recruiters continues to play a role in debates over gay rights," Chauncey said.

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