The first gay rights group in the US was founded in Chicago in 1924 by Henry Gerber, a German immigrant.

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"I had always bitterly felt the injustice with which my own American society accused the homosexual of 'immoral acts,'" Gerber wrote. He filed an application to organize a non-profit in Illinois "to promote and protect the interests of people who by reasons of mental and physical abnormalities are abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness which is guaranteed them by the Declaration of Independence."

Gerber found few allies: Medical and psychological professionals were afraid to ruin their reputations by involvement, and few gays were willing to join. Before long, the group's advocacy upset relatives of its thin membership, at least one of whom had a wife and children. After a series of arrests in the summer of 1925, the Society for Human Rights disbanded.

Its members, however, informed other gay rights groups around the country, including the Mattachine Society founded in Los Angeles in 1950. Gerber later moved to New York City and worked on gay rights until his death in Washington D.C., in 1972.

He lived long enough to see Illinois in 1962 become the first state to repeal its sodomy laws. In 1992, Gerber was posthumously inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. His apartment on North Crilly Court is a Chicago landmark.