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Some women realize that they are lesbians after they are married and have children. If their marriages break up, many give up their children for fear of exposure. Avowed lesbians fight uphill—and usually losing—battles to win custody.
The Law: Inching Toward Equality?
Homosexuals in the U.S. face an array of penalties more severe than in any Western nation outside the Communist bloc. Sodomy between consenting adults is still illegal in 38 states and may result in sentences of up to 21 years and conceivably life; prosecution, however, is very rare. In Georgia, the Sodomy law was recently rewritten to apply to sex between lesbians. Unless cities have ordinances specifically forbidding it, gays can generally be barred or evicted from privately owned housing, without legal recourse. "Until recently, no avowed homosexual dared apply to medical or law schools," says Lawyer Marilyn Haft, co-author of The Rights of Gay People, a new American Civil Liberties Union handbook. "Now the political climate is such that it is less likely that a qualified homosexual applicant would be rejected out of hand." Homosexuals are still regarded as insurance risks, and state licensing laws implicitly ban them from certain professions.
The armed services cashier some 2,000 men and women a year for homosexuality, usually with the stigma of a less than honorable discharge. However, under pressure from the gay movement, the military has lately been granting a few honorable discharges when the man's or woman's service record warrants it. The case of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich is the strongest challenge to the armed forces yet made by a homosexual soldier.
Whether gays should be teachers is a volatile issue among parents. Said Jack Johnstone, a Bronx father, during last year's debate over New York City's (defeated) civil rights bill for homosexuals: "I think they're deviants and should be kept apart from children." Winnie and Albert Lefebvre acknowledged that a good many homosexuals are probably already in the school system, but opposed a bill that would officially protect those jobs. "All we're saying is don't give it legal sanction," says Lefebvre. "Just don't condone it."
Yet some recent court decisions have upheld the homosexual's right to teach. In 1969 the California Supreme Court ruled that homosexuality in itself is not a cause for disqualifying a teacher. The District of Columbia and San Francisco school boards, among others, have banned discrimination in the hiring of gay teachers.
The A.C.L.U. reports job discrimination against gays is eroding. Some major corporations—including AT&T, the Bank of America, IBM and NBC—have declared themselves equal-opportunity employers with regard to homosexuals. Honeywell, which publicly refused to hire gays in 1970, lifted the ban seven months before Minneapolis, where its home office is located, passed an antidiscrimination ordinance in 1974. Most