On April 30th, the 37th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, the photo of gay Vietnam veteran Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich's powerful tombstone resurfaced online -- sparking discussion of its famous phrase:
"When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."
A purple heart and bronze star recipient, Matlovich was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after confessing his sexuality to his commanding officer. While he successfully sued the Air Force for reinstatement in 1980, Matlovich agreed to drop the case in exchange for a $160,000 settlement.
"The most eloquent and most convincing testimony against the policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' comes, as such testimony usually does, from those who have paid the highest price for the policy's failings," Senator John Kerry said, according to a website run in Matlovich's honor. "And the most compelling I have ever read is on a tombstone in Congressional Cemetery, not far from the Capitol."
Matlovich's struggle triggered a national movement and discussion of gay rights -- especially in the military. It was highlighted by his 1975 TIME Magazine cover.
Matlovich died on June 22, 1988 from complications of HIV/AIDS after years of speaking out for the cause.
In the section of the website dedicated to the story behind tombstone, it notes the inscription of his last name at the foot of the memorial is the only tie to Matlovich himself, as he wanted the stone to be a monument for all gay veterans.
View other LGBT related photos and videos that have gone viral on the Internet in the slideshow below:
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated April 30, 2012 was the 35th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. It was the 37th anniversary.
Hours after the U.S. military repealed "Don't Ask Don't Tell," Randy Phillips, a young American soldier stationed in Germany <a href="http://main.aol.com/2011/09/20/soldier-comes-out-to-father-on-youtube_n_971994.html" target="_hplink">had something to tell his father</a>. "Dad, I'm gay," the soldier uttered into his cellphone. "Always have been and always known forever," he adds.
A Navy tradition caught up with the 2011 repeal of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule when Marissa Gaeta And Citlalic Snell, two U.S. naval petty officers, became the first to share the coveted "first kiss" on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.
Wahls' profound pro-gay parenting, pro-marriage equality speech went viral twice this year. The 19-year-old's moving testimony in front of the Iowa House of Representatives swept Twitter and Facebook in February and in December due to the continuing debates about same-sex marriage and gay parenting in the United States.
A bullied teen's poignant video caught the eye of the blogosphere over three months after it was originally posted. The clip, simply titled "Whats goin on..." [sic] and uploaded to YouTube in August, features eighth grader Jonah Mowry, who addresses the audience with a series of revealing notecards while Sia's "Breathe Me" plays in the background.
Danny Rose set a new precedent for gay grooms-to-be with his amazing proposal video. Titled "What Are We Waiting For," the video features a dance-pop soundtrack and "Glee"-style choreography, along with a number of slick costume changes to boot. "I started writing the song in December and took me a month to complete," said Rose. "Then I prepped the music video for a few weeks and shot it all in one day...After the video I got down on one knee and asked him to make me the happiest person in the world and spend his life with me! He said of course and it was a great moment. But wanted to watch the video again 30 more times. There are a lot of inside jokes and even some wardrobe choices in there designed to experiences in our history."
Although Tebow filmed a Superbowl commercial in 2010 for the anti-gay, anti-abortion organization Focus On The Family (FOTF), he seemed to have no problem sharing a male-on-male lip-lock with Demaryius Thomas in front of thousands (millions?) of onlookers in October.
Penned by "Wicked" Stephen Schwartz, "Testimony" has become an Internet hit, thanks to a video performance by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus (SFGMC) which has gone viral. The song has been dubbed the "It Gets Better" anthem.
An eighth grader's hilarious public service announcement on the misuse of the word "gay" made the rounds of the LGBT blogosphere and beyond in November.
It's easy to see why a video of a gay couple being told they're going to be grandparents went viral again over a year after it was originally uploaded to YouTube.
An Australian same-sex marriage advocacy group's sexy, dramatic new campaign had the blogosphere abuzz in late fall. Produced by independent advocacy organization GetUp! Action for Australia, the new ad, simply titled "A Love Story," which depicts two handsome men frolicking on a beach and dealing with family crises before a proposal and the subsequent nuptials.
One gay couple expressed their views on the victory of Spain's Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People's Party by "videobombing" an Al Jazeera reporter, kissing passionately as the hapless correspondent spoke on the election.
In a stinging floor speech, Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer expressed her dissatisfaction with "Matt's Safe School Law," which -- at the time -- created a special exception for bullies who have "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction," as well as neglecting to protect to bullying against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In early December, Michele Bachmann was left speechless after an awkward encounter with a young activist named Elijah at a South Carolina book signing. The video, however, drew plenty of criticism from some unusual sources.
Produced by staff and students from the University of Liverpool and based on an original idea from the staff's LGBT Network, "Gay is the Word" shows a British fellow attempting to come out to his mates as a gay man, yet failing when his friends don't understand that "gay" also means "homosexual."