"[It's] pretty extraordinary what we've accomplished in less than 50 years," said Cleve Jones, who has spent decades as a gay rights activist, starting in the 1970s as a protege of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. "Homosexual behavior itself was a felony almost everywhere," Jones recalled. "There were laws on the books preventing us from congregating in bars and restaurants. There were special police units in every single city whose job was to entrap and arrest and imprison us. … There's been enormous progress, astonishing progress." ...
But experts and advocates agree on one explanation above all others: Familiarity.
"People came to understand we existed," Jones said. "They worked with us. They knew us. They had [gay] family members. That demystified it and made it harder for them to hate us in an abstract way."
That was an avenue obviously unavailable to African Americans. "It isn't as if white people suddenly come to discover they have African American children or relatives," said Kenneth Sherrill, a professor at Hunter College in New York and a longtime gay activist. Gays and lesbians "are born into straight families and live in straight neighborhoods and go to straight schools and work in straight businesses," Sherrill said. "There's a kind of familiarity that's exceedingly difficult to achieve in the case of race."
In a sermon blasting President Obama for his same-sex marriage support, Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, offered a novel—and horrific—solution to the so-called gay scourge: build an electric fence and let "lesbians, queers and homosexuals" starve to death. "I figured a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers," he says in his sermon, delivered on May 13. "Build a great, big, large fence—150 or 100 mile long—put all the lesbians in there... Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out… And you know what, in a few years, they'll die." ... Throughout the sermon, many of his congregants can be heard calling out "Amen."