In 1992 the New Orleans City Council passed a gay non-discrimination ordinance. Long confined to the shadows, the New Orleans lesbian, gay and transgender community is now an integral part of the city’s culture and life. While gay society had long existed in the city, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the community began to become more public, and also experience more pushback.
The operators of the Lafitte Blacksmith Shop bar opened after prohibition in 1936 and welcomed gay men and women. When the owners lost their lease in 1953, they moved to the next corner at Dumaine and Bourbon streets and renamed the bar Café Lafitte in Exile. The bar is one of the longest operating gay bars in the country.
In the decades that followed, the community became more public. Some started holding an annual Fat Monday Luncheon in 1949 and others started a gay Carnival club in 1958. But local politics and officials, including District Attorney Jim Garrison, prevented the groups from becoming too active. The Gay Liberation movement didn’t organize until 1970, followed by the Metropolitan Community Church and Daughters of Bilitis. And then, in 1973, 32 people were killed in a fire at the Upstairs Lounge, where many in the LBGT community, specifically the Metropolitan Community Church, congregated.
The New Orleans City Council passed a gay non-discrimination ordinance in 1991 and in 1997 the city extended domestic partner benefits to city employees.