The creation of the first officially recognized gay student group at Oregon State University in 1976 was inspired by similar types of student activism at OSU and other universities. The contemporaneous women's liberation movement and the 1969 Stonewall riot were key motivators. Below is a timeline of key events which influenced the history of OSU gay student groups.
University of California Berkeley students start the "Free Speech Movement." Longtime Corvallis, Oregon resident, Dunbar Aitkens, is a participant. Aitkens was one of the leaders of early gay rights activities in Corvallis, Oregon.
Columbia University (New York) officially recognizes the "Student Homophile League" as a student group.
Stonewall Inn riot in New York City marks a shift from the older generation of conservative homophile activists to a younger, more militant type of gay activist.
University of Minnesota officially recognizes a student club for "gays and sympathizers" called F.R.E.E. (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression). University of Minnesota's Board of Regents tightens club recognition policy in response.
University of California Berkeley students stage "gay power" demonstrations and guerrilla theater skits. Longtime Corvallis, Oregon resident and gay activist, Dunbar Aitkens, is arrested for doing with another man in public what heterosexual couples regularly do in public without being arrested.
University of Minnesota F.R.E.E. group issues press release to announce that Jack Baker and Michael McConnell will be applying for a marriage license. Minnesota marriage law does not specify gender. University of Minnesota's Board of Regents vote to withdraw a librarian job offer from Michael McConnell in response to his marriage announcement.
University of Nebraska approves Prof. Louis Compton's homophile studies course.
University of Minnesota, openly gay, law student Jack Baker is elected to his first of two terms as student body president.
Oregon repeals the state sodomy law as part of a comprehensive overhaul of blue laws. Previously, Oregon's sodomy law had been changed after an anti-gay moral panic of 1912 that resulted in the arrest of many gay men. The old sodomy law specified a punishment of up to 15 years in jail and it prudishly defined sodomy as being both anal sex and oral sex including the licking of the anus or genitals by either homosexuals or heterosexuals. This is why liberal heterosexual state legislators supported the change, even though they were forced to make a compromise raising the age-of-consent to 18.
Columbia University Students protest the college president and black student group's claim that gays are not a legitimate minority.
University of Kansas refuses to recognize gay student group. Famous civil rights attorney William Kunstler agrees to take the case, but loses it on appeal when the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case.
University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker has his marriage license revoked by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said his appeal was "dismissed for want of substantial federal question." The court essentially said that marriages are defined by state and not federal laws.
Oregon school teacher Peggy Burton, who had been fired for being a lesbian, wins in federal court, but loses two years later when the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case.
Oregon State University Women's Study Center opens as a six month experiment. The Women's Center is a success and it permanently occupies an old building that was about to be demolished. It soon became the center of gay activism at OSU until 2004 when the Pride Center building opened.
American Psychiatric Association votes to remove homosexuality from the official list of mental disorders. Today, coercive medical treatments that attempt to change a person's sexual orientation have been banned by all major health organizations for being unethical.
Campus ex-gay groups predated gay-friendly student groups. These groups were usually led by a campus minister who wanted to "help" homosexual students become straight via prayer and unethical psychotherapy. Today, several Corvallis churches are still sponsoring ex-gay groups on campus. Ex-gays typically settle for celibacy because most admit to retaining their same-sex desires for ever.
Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles police are caught illegally keeping secret files on citizens they suspect of being homosexual. Police defend their actions as needed to fight "terrorism."
Portland, Oregon city council votes 3-2 to ban anti-gay discrimination in municipal employment.
University of Oregon journalism graduate, Randy Shilts, is hired as a reporter for The Advocate (then a national gay newspaper) by the editor John Preston. Both men later become well known gay authors. Randy Shilts is most famous for his reporting on AIDS for the San Francisco Chronicle during the 1980s before he died from AIDS.
Oregon State University Experimental College classes on homosexuality included: "Gay Women's Consciousness Raising" (Instructor: Peggy Jo Nulsen); "FREE 2 B U.N. ME!" (Instructors: Steve Rowe and Dunbar Aitkens of 1460 SW 'A' Avenue); and "Sexual Stereotypes in the Bible" (Instructor: Eric Landau, who represented the then anti-gay campus religious organization Westminster House)
Oregon State University Black Cultural Center officially opens at 2320 NW Monroe.
Front page of Barometer features the resignation of the legendary Oregon State University football coach and soon to be athletic director, Dee Andros, directly above a photograph of naked OSU streakers.
Oregon State University student newspaper, "The Barometer," prints an editorial by managing editor Bob Goldstein defending the two-page long Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper article featuring lesbians who wanted to get married. The G-T was flooded with angry letters and subscription cancellations for just mentioning homosexuality in a so-called "family newspaper." A letter to the editor of "The Barometer" by longtime Corvallis, Oregon resident Dunbar Aitkens and Steve Rowe praises the editor's position, but student John Wilkins writes in to accuse the editor of having poor judgment and no values. One of the women profiled in the article came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper and she was active in early gay women's groups at Oregon State University.
Oregon State University Native American Longhouse is dedicated March 23, 1976 in a blessing ceremony led by Gilbert Walking Bull.
Oregon State University announces that tuition will be $179 per term ($240 per term including incidental fees such as $16.50 for health insurance). Dormitory room and board (with 19 meals per week plan) in Weatherford Hall is projected to cost $1,140 per school year. Typical student jobs pay less than two dollars per hour.
Oregon State University Barometer April Fools Day edition includes an advice column headlined, "Lassie not gay." The column's "Mr. Answer" claims that the rumors about the popular TV dogs Lassie and Rin Tin Tin being married to each other are not true. This joke is culturally significant because homosexuality has historically been associated with bestiality.
Oregon State University student projectionist refuses to show the sexually graphic movie "Emmanuelle" because it violated his Christian values. He ends up instead showing the violent and bloody movie "Dirty Harry," starring Clint Eastwood. The hypocrisy of this is pointed out in a letter to the editor by longtime Corvallis resident and gay activist Dunbar Aitkens.
Ronald Reagan holds a rally on the Oregon State University campus while running against President Gerald Ford in the Oregon Republican Primary. Reagan does not win the presidency until 1980. President Reagan was highly criticized in the 1980s for his delayed reaction to the AIDS tragedy.
A print ad for "The Gay Parfait" restaurant and ice cream parlor at 340 N.W. 5th Steet appears in the Barometer. Also located in downtown Corvallis was a men's clothing store named "The Gay Blade." Both businesses eventually dropped the word "gay" from their names after "gay" became commonly associated with being homosexual.
National Organization of Women (NOW) chapter is organized in Corvallis. Many lesbian women were actively involved in starting the women's movement.
Oregon State University black cultural center is vandalized and a burning cross is placed on the front lawn. Several students are caught and the university president gives them an "unspecified punishment," which upsets many people on campus as being too lenient.
Society for the Advancement of Women (SAW) is denied funding by the student council.
Oregon State University Barometer editor, Bob Goldstein, writes an editorial on sex change operations titled "New type of sexism." This is the first mention of transsexual or transgendered people in the Barometer. Intersex conditions would not be mentioned until years later.
Oregon State University gay students meet on November 4 in the Women's Center to form the first officially recognized gay student group. The weekly meeting agendas are discreetly printed with tiny 6-point type in the Barometer student newspaper's "Campus" calendar section. The microfilm copies are nearly illegible, but the complete text of each meeting announcement is as follows:
November 4, 1976
Center for Women's Studies has an open discussion to ascertain the needs of gay people. How does a person deal with "his-her" homosexuality-bisexuality in this community? 7 P.M.
November 11, 1976
Gay men and women meeting - 7 PM - Center for Women's Studies. Discuss needs of gay men and women in this community. How does one deal with "his-her" homosexuality-bisexuality?
November 18, 1976
Gay people - 7 PM - Center for Women's Studies. Meet to plan social and educational activities.
December 2, 1976
Gay people - 7 PM Center for Women's Studies. Discuss organization and future activities.
Oregon's Multnomah County Medical Association polls Portland area doctors and finds that 80 percent would refuse to treat gay patients. This problem became even worse when AIDS struck in the 1980s. Medical professionals often refused to treat gay men due to the fear of getting AIDS. Furthermore, many doctors continued to treat homosexuality as a mental illness despite the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association and later decisions by other mental health organizations.
Eugene, Oregon's city council votes 5-3 to make it illegal to discriminate against homosexuals.
Eugene, Oregon citizens vote (61 percent to 39 percent) to repeal the city's ordinance protecting homosexuals from discrimination. Local anti-gay leaders wisely rejected help from singer Anita Bryant's national religious organization which was lobbying to repeal similar laws in other cities across the country. Instead of trying to convince non-religious Eugene voters with Anita Bryant's religious based argument, opponents of the pro-gay ordinance falsely claimed it was a "special right," which was not needed because homosexuals were already protected under law. An anti-gay Colorado campaign in the 1990s also adopted this non-religious "no special rights for gays" political slogan and in 2004 Oregon backers of an anti-gay marriage amendment successfully duped voters with it again.
Oregon congressman U.S. Rep. James Weaver of Eugene is targeted for defeat by national Republican groups because he sponsored a federal gay non-discrimination act. Political operatives attended church meetings and smeared Weaver by calling him "anti-Christian" and "anti-family." Gerrymandering has historically included all of Eugene and parts of Corvallis within Weaver's congressional district.
Eddie Hickey's GPA (Gay People's Alliance ) student group funding request for the 1982-1983 school-year of $100 culminated unsuccessfully in 1982 after a heated campus-wide debate. The $100 request was out of a total student incidental fees budget of over $4,400,000. ($87.78 per term incidental fees times 3 terms times 16,743 students enrolled)
The discovery of HIV being the likely cause of AIDS is announced. Many people associated with Oregon State University died of AIDS, including Eddie Hickey and his lover Scott. Anti-gay politicians cruelly exploited the AIDS tragedy to demonize homosexuals and to justify the firing of gay workers. Before a test for HIV was developed, gay men were rationally barred from donating blood to prevent infecting others. Today, even celibate and HIV negative gay men are still barred from donating blood even though a government medical advisory panel sees no reason for keeping this ban other than prejudice.
May 9, 1984
OSU Newsmagazine in-Edition, May 9, 1984 cover story by Tami Brucker, "Lifestyles, Happy and Gay at OSU" was inserted in the official student newspaper The Daily Barometer. The feature article "Gay lifestyles at Oregon 'Straight,' Some cope openly, fears closet others" did an astounding job covering many aspects of "gay lifestyles" at Oregon State University. The article also summarized the history of Eddie Hickey who lobbied the student government to fund the gay student group and who along with his lover Scott later died from AIDS. In 2000, the Associated Press AP stylebook amended the gay entry so that it specifically discouraged references to a "gay lifestyle."
Oregon State University "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Alliance" (LGBTA) votes (10-8) to change its name to the "Rainbow Continuum" in order to be more inclusive of all sexual and gender identities. Many group members preferred the name "Queers and Allies" (Q & A) as a way of taking back the word "queer" from people who use it as an insult. Some thought it would be confused with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow group. The Rainbow Continuum student group name was still in use as of 2010 perhaps because gay students like its "on the down low" profile.
Oregon State University Student Fees committee voted (7-0) to approve funding for the "Queer Resource Center." Opponents of the QRC vowed to continue their fight to stop this new cultural center. The QRC is housed in a former closet of the Women's Center. Except for later gay marriage debates, this was the last time a few students still felt free to openly, in the campus media, advocate discrimination against gay people just for being gay. Anti-gay and homophobic feelings undoubtedly still exist, but they are being publicly suppressed by the mainstream students, which has led to claims by Christian Republican students that they are now the "victims" of political correctness and censorship.
New "Pride Center" opens at 1553 SW 'A' Avenue. OSU President Ed Ray cut the ribbon at the official opening on "National Coming Out Day," October 11, 2004. Unlike on most campuses where the gay student center shares space with other student groups, the Pride Center is a small standalone building on the edge of campus near a dormitory block. The Pride Center name was carefully chosen to avoid controversy and to lower its visibility by deleting all references to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer in its name. Instead of using the generic words gay or queer, the acronym LGBT or LGBTQQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex) has become the "politically correct" terminology when it is needed for clarity. Old-time gay liberationists are happy to see the open support of university officials, but they criticize the "on the down low" approach because they worry it sends gay students back into a virtual closet.