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GAY HISTORY: September 19, 1964 – The Little Known First Organized Gay Protest

 

Many people believe that the first protest against gay discrimination happened in Washington, D.C. and was led by the late, great gay activist Frank Kameny on April 17, 1965.  

Well, they are  wrong.

The first true organized protest against gay discrimination took place in the middle of Manhattan, on September 19, 1964 at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center,over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential.  New York City activist Randy Wicker organized it along with Craig Rodwell (known as the Father of Pride), who would go on to open the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore. They were joined by eight other members of the Sexual Freedom League, (six of them straight), and they gathered outside the army’s induction center at 39 Whitehall Street in New York City to protest the armed forces’s anti-gay discrimination and complicity in the MacCarthy era witch-hunts. 

Other marchers included Renai Cafiero,who would go on to become  one of the first openly gay delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention and Nancy Garden and Jeff Poland of the New York League  for Sexual Freedom. Picket signs declared, “Homosexuals died for U.S., Too,” “Love and Let Love,” and “Army Invades Sexual Privacy.”

Let’s give some credit where credit is due and remember these often overlooked and brave people who stood up and spoke out out at a time when very few were willing to do so..

You can see Randy Wicker’s original photos from that event here

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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,

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