First Gay Rights Legislation

The first gay rights legislation enacted in America: March 7, 1972, the East Lansing, Michigan, city council approved by a vote of 4-to-1 an act declaring the city must seek to “employ the best applicant for each vacancy on the basis of his [sic] qualifications for the job and without regard to race, color, creed, national origin, sex or homosexuality.”

July 1972, the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan – home to University of Michigan – would take East Lansing’s measure one step further, prohibiting discrimination against gays not only in employment, but housing and public accommodations as well – becoming the first community-wide gay rights legislation in the nation. Ann Arbor’s act was spurred by the election to the city council in 1972 of Jerry DeGrieck and Nancy Wechsler, who had run on the Human Rights Party ticket. Both would come out as gay in 1973.

Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck simultaneously became the first openly lesbian and openly gay elected officials in America. They both graduated from the University of Michigan. They were elected to the Ann Arbor City Council in 1972 as members of the Human Rights Party. They came out in at a City Council meeting in October 1973 when the Chief of Police was in attendance. An anti-gay attack at a local bar had occurred the night before, which violated the recently passed Human Rights Ordinance, and they wanted to ask the Chief of Police why the Police who were called to the scene did not seem to be aware of the contents of the ordinance.