FeaturedGay HistoryOf Interest

Gay History Month – October 6th: Matthew Shepard, The AIDS Quilt, and The Castro Sweep – Rare Video


Gay/LGBT History Month - October 6th: Matthew Shepard, The NAMES Project/AIDS Quilt, and The Castro Sweep - Video

On October 6th.

1791: France adopts The French Penal Code of 1791, marking it as the first Western European country to decriminalize same-sex acts.

1928: The New York Times reported that George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells had protested the seizure of the lesbian novel “The Well of Loneliness” by English customs agents. The novel had been published in France and was being imported into England.

1963: Judy Garland sings with Barbra Streisand on Judy’s variety show. It is their one and only performance together.

1968: A group of 12 people congregated for the first meeting of the Metropolitan Community Church in Huntington Park, California. Founded by Rev. Troy Perry, who held the first meeting in his living room, the religious organization centralizes its ministry efforts around the LGBT community.

1989: The NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was displayed for the first time in Washington DC, with 10,848 panels that covered the Washington Mall.

The idea for the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was conceived in 1985 by AIDS activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march, in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco of his good friend Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. For the march, Jones had people write the names of loved ones that were lost to AIDS-related causes on signs that would be taped to the San Francisco Federal Building. All the signs taped to the building looked like an enormous patchwork quilt to Jones, and he was inspired.  

The NAMES Project officially started in 1987 in San Francisco by Jones, Mike Smith, and volunteers Joseph Durant, Jack Caster, Gert McMullin, Ron Cordova, Larkin Mayo and Gary Yuschalk. At that time many people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals, due to both the social stigma of AIDS felt by surviving family members and the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the deceased’s remains and were creamated.  Lacking a memorial service or grave site, The AIDS Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved ones’ lives.

You can view the quilt online by visiting  http://www.aidsquilt.org/

1989:  In the annals of bloody misconduct by members of the San Francisco Police Department, the events of October 6, 1989, and the Castro Sweep ranks high on anyone’s list. 

In reaction to a small, peaceful protest against federal neglect of people with AIDS at the San Francisco Civic Center, about 200 San Francisco police officers rioted in the Castro neighborhood, beating protesters and passersby, sweeping seven city blocks of all pedestrians, and placing thousands in homes and business under house arrest for the duration.  The incident which would become known as the “Castro Sweep” prolonged a rift between the city’s law enforcement and LGBT community that had began a decade earlier with the White Night riots sparked by a lenient sentence for the killer of the city’s first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, and Mayor George Moscone.

Before the night was through, the police had shut down an entire city neighborhood and arrested 53 people and injured 10..

Read all about The Castro Sweep from participant and fellow LGBT historian Gerard Koskovich by clicking  HERE  and HERE.

1997:  Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain is published in this week’s issue of The New Yorker. The story, later turned into a hit movie depicts the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the American West from 1963 to 1981.

Brokeback Mountain ranks 12th among the highest-grossing romance films of all time.

1998: On this night in 1998 Matthew Shepard was brutally attacked, pistol whipped, tied to a fence and left to die by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.  It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears. Shepard, who was still alive but in a coma, was discovered 18 hour later on the morning of October 7th.   Matthew passed away a few days later on October 12, 1998.

The horrific event would become one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history and spawned an activist movement that, more than a decade later, would result in passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law.

For details on the Matthew Shepard story as a whole please visit here.

1999:  Donna Brazile, an out lesbian, became Al Gore’s campaign manager. She was also the first African-American woman to manage a presidential run.

2014:  The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on seven of the petitions arising from challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.  Which meant that the lower-court decisions striking down bans in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia should go into effect clearing the way for same-sex marriages in those states and any other state with similar bans in those circuits.  Indeed, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (who had declined to defend his state’s ban on same-sex marriage) indicated this morning on Twitter that, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the mandate in the Virginia cases would issue at 1 p.m., at which point “marriages can then begin.”same-sex marriage cases”.



Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

Related Articles

What do you think?