Every rights movement has its heroes, and the push for equality for the LGBT community is no exception. Over the years, from the Stonewall riots in New York to marches against Proposition 8 in California and every state’s fight for marriage equality, countless Americans have stood behind these leaders.
In the 40-plus years since the Stonewall riots, a series of street battles after a police raid on gay bars in New York, the push for homosexual men and women to become fully vested participants in the American dream has been a steady struggle.
On May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage. The president’s decision would never have come about without the thousands upon thousands of brave men and women who risked their comfort and security to press for equal civil rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
Here are some of the most inspiring gay activists we know of, a list that keeps growing.