Groups directly challenging legal repression and social discrimination against lesbians and male homosexuals arose in a number of countries in the years between 1919 and 1939, but the rise of fascism and Nazism and the outbreak of war brought an end to such campaigning. In countries like Spain and Portugal calling for gay rights was virtually impossible until their dictatorial regimes came to an end in the 1970s. In Spain legalizing of gay and lesbian sexual relations was seen as part of the necessary post-Franco liberalization, and occurred in 1979, when the first Gay Pride march was held in the country. The Nazis had destroyed the Institute for Sexual Research set up by a pioneer of homosexual (and women’s) rights, the German Jew Magnus Hirschfeld, passed a more draconian law against male homosexuals in their amendment of paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code in 1936, and sentenced as estimated 50,000 to imprisonment. Lesbians were less specifically targeted, although some were arrested for ‘prostitution’ or ‘asocial’ behaviour. Of the men arrested it is estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps where they forced to wear a pink triangle, and up to 60 per cent may have died. (A reference for this period provided by the American Library Association is: http://www.ala.org/glbtrt/popularresources/holocaust) However, after the War homosexual victims of the camps were not acknowledged and a memoir by one survivor, , The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps  revised edn., 1994, pp. 120 , was not published until 1980. (It has since been re-issued in English and translated into several languages.) In West Germany the Nazi version of paragraph 175, which made it criminal to look at another man ‘in a lewd manner’, was not repealed until 1969. Although East Germany under Communist Party rule was less open to public protest, the regime amended the Nazi version of paragraph 175 in 1950, but the paragraph was not formally repealed until 1968 (though it was not enforced after 1957).
Even after the Second World War, homosexuals were not only stigmatized by widespread social and institutional discrimination, but also in many cases faced legislation prohibiting sexual activity and possible imprisonment or chemical castration. As a result they were subject to police harassment and entrapment, vulnerable to blackmail and vilification in the media and liable to arrest. Some were driven to suicide – as was the celebrated British mathematician, Enigma Code breaker during World War Two and pioneer of computer science, Alan Turing . (He received a retrospective ‘pardon’ for ‘gross indecency’ from the Queen in December 2013, which had been extended to others persecuted in Britain under anti-homosexual legislation - though some have rejected as inappropriate and called for an apology. The genrale pardon was officially enshrined in law - unofficially known as 'Turin's Law' - when the Policing and Official Crime Act received royal assent at the end of January 2017.) During the 1950s campaign organizations focused on seeking legal and social reform, many of these groups (some revivals from the inter-war years) were linked to the transnational ‘homophile’ network. One of the best known organizations was Arcadie in France, founded in 1954, with its own club and publication; it attracted prominent intellectuals like Jean Cocteau and Michel Foucault. In Britain pressure for law reform began in the 1950s, and liberal minded parliamentarians succeeded in passing a Private Members Bill in 1967, which meant that sex in private between men over 21 was no longer illegal in England and Wales – though this only became law in Scotland in 1980 and in Northern Ireland in 1982 (lesbianism had not been previously banned).
Legislation decriminalizing sex between consenting male homosexuals was also passed in Canada in 1967 and came into effect in 1969. In the United States the McCarthyist purges and paranoia of the earlier 1950s tended to repress all nonconformists. Many gay men and lesbians lost government jobs, and although groups were formed to change the law in the later 1960s, at the end of the decade homosexual sex was still illegal in all states except Illinois.
A trigger for change was the June 1969 confrontation at the Stonewall Inn in New York between police and gays (including drag queens who were at the forefront of resisting police). The rapid rise of the Gay Liberation movement afterwards resulted in a much more openly challenging and radical style of protest and organizing, including the spread of Gay Pride marches from 1970, and various forms of direct action, such as occupations of police stations and interrupting church services in Britain. The movement was also diverse, stressing the rights of women as well as men and embracing transgender people and drag queens, although divisions and controversies also arose. Gay Liberation spread rapidly to the UK and Australia and rather more slowly to New Zealand. It also had a strong impact on campaigning for gay and lesbian rights in much of Western Europe. But one difference between the United States movement and Gay Liberation in many other western countries was that the latter were often concerned about their relationships with the socialist left, as some titles below indicate.
Alongside decriminalization of homosexuality there was pressure for demedicalization. Labeling homosexuality as a mental illness meant that lesbians, gays and transgender people could be given psychiatric treatment to change their sexual orientation. At the 1971 American Psychiatric Association convention, gay activist Dr Franklin E. Kameny seized the microphone as part of a long-standing opposition to the diagnosis of homosexuality, and initiated wider gay rights protest. One outcome was a session at the 1972 conference on homosexuality and mental illness entitled ‘Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to Homosexuals: A Dialogue’. Kameny was on the panel. Here John E. Fryer made his famous ‘I am a homosexual, I am a psychiatrist’ speech, disguised by a mask and wig and calling himself Dr H. His speech (the first time a psychiatrist publicly admitted to being homosexual) has been cited as a key factor in achieving the removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders a year later. Some orthodox psychiatrists fought a rearguard action against what they saw as capitulation to gay activism, and demanded a referendum of all the members, who ratified the decision in 1974. The American Psychological Association followed suit in 1975. However, it took until 1990 for the World Health Organization to remove homosexuality from its tenth international classification of diseases and health problems (ICD 10).