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LGBTQ Activism & Rights in Minnesota: Overview

Research materials related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) activism in Minnesota.

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Gay human rights button. 1998.

Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota, by Stewart VanCleve.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, c2012.
MNHS call number: HQ76.3.U52 M683 2012

Minnesota GLBT Movement Papers (1964-2007), collected by Leo Treadway.
Correspondence, agendas, bylaws, minutes, financial reports, notes, newsletters, brochures, miscellaneous printed matter, and newspaper clippings collected by Leo Treadway, a leading Minnesota gay rights activist.
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid

Minnesota Committee for Gay and Lesbian Rights Records.
Board and annual meeting minutes, news clippings, financial data, office logs, correspondence, lobbying files, and other records of an organization formed in 1974 to work for passing local ordinances and state laws guaranteeing rights for gays and lesbians, to combat homophobia and violence against gays and lesbians, and to educate the public and legislature about gay and lesbian issues.
MNHS call number: Digital finding aid


Gay and Lesbian Activities in Minneapolis: Photographs.
Views of Gay Pride celebrations, a 1979 meeting with Minneapolis Chief of Police D.R. Dwyer, Tim Campbell's "Mayoral Ball" in August 1979, a gay march on Washington D.C. Oct. 1979, a 1980 meeting with Mayor Don Fraser and Chief of Police Tony Bouza, and Tom Burke's campaign fundraiser in Feb. 1980. Also includes portraits of Minneapolis councilwoman Barbara Carlson. Photographed by Gary Johnson.
MNHS call number: III.29 

"Senator Allan Spear and the Minnesota Human Rights Act," by Joshua Preston.
In Minnesota History vol. 65, no. 3 (fall 2016), pp. 76-86.
MNHS call number: Digital copy


Jack Baker (born Richard John Baker) and James Michael McConnell apply for a marriage license in Minneapolis. May 18, 1970.

The public history of LGBTQ activism in the state of Minnesota goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, paralleling the broader national trends of social protest.  

In 1970 Jack Baker and Michael McConnell filed for a marriage license in Hennepin County, which would lead to the Minnesota Supreme Court Case Baker v Nelson.  In 1972 a small group of activists led a march down Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall in what would be the precursor to modern day Pride celebrations.  Throughout the years, activists have focused on visibility, public accommodation, and justice for the LGBTQ community--often via legislation and court cases, but also through social services, direct community organizing, and advocacy within communities of faith.  Major legislative victories include the Human Rights Act (1993) and the Marriage Equality Act (2013).

At the Minnesota Historical Society, researchers may study the history of LGBTQ activism through the personal papers of various activists and politicians, organizational and government records, oral history projects, photograph collections, newspaper coverage, and more.  Key resources are highlighted in this guide; it is meant to be a starting place for researchers rather than an exhaustive listing of all collections.  


Please note that language within and about the LGBTQ community has evolved over the years.  Terms used generally reflect the content of collections and also the language used at the time materials were created and collected.  For assistance in selecting effective search terms for these historic collections, please see our "search tips" boxes.    


For assistance researching legislative history and particular court cases, please see our respective guides for legislative history and court records research.

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MNHS Reference Staff

MNHS Reference Staff

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