On June 4, 1971 less than two years after the Stonewall uprising, a group of men and women from the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) walked into the New York City Marriage License Bureau carrying coffee urns and boxes of cake to hold an engagement party for two male couples and to protest the “slander” of City Clerk Herman Katz, who had threatened legal action against same-sex “holy unions” being performed — yes, already then, in 1971 — by the Church of the Beloved Disciple, which had a largely gay congregation.
The GAA was the the second major gay-rights group to form after Stonewall, the more organized cousin of the Gay Liberation Front, which fought valiantly in the early 1970’s with goal, as one member later recalled, of “writing the revolution into law.”
Not known to many there is actual video footage of the planning for the Marriage Bureau takeover and protest or “ZAP” as they were called, and of the action itself, on YouTube.
There are three videos, each about 10 minutes in length. The first opens with an interview Wicker conducted with the church’s pastor about the controversy over whether or not the church was performing illegal marriages — as opposed to protected religious ceremonies — and thus violating the law. The rest of it consists mainly of a Gay Activists Alliance planning meeting for the action, with a lengthy speech by Mark Rubin, who lays out the protest’s agenda and describes himself as anxious to do what he’s about to do.
The second video shows the GAA members invade the Marriage Bureau office, set up their coffee urns, and offer the staff cake.
“We’re having a wedding reception for gay people in room 265 …. You’re all invited to come,” activist Arthur Evans, who is the main speaker in the video, says to people down the hall.
“Our rights as gay people have been slandered by a public official,” Evans says to those who tell him he has no right to be there.
Eventually the group enters Katz’s office and shouts, “Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!”
The third video shows the party part of the engagement party, as activist Peter Fisher sings songs with lyrics modified to make them gay-rights protest songs. “We waited too damn long for our rights,” he sings to the tune of the gospel song “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
So watch the video below and take a step back in time to when activism was real and experience our gay and lesbian forefathers fighting for the rights that we have today. But may not have for very much longer unless we start fighting again.
4 thoughts on “Gay History – June 4, 1971: Gay Activist Alliance Takes Over the NYC Marriage License Bureau – [Rare Video]”
My blog recollections of Stonewall night of rage and early days of the Gay Rights Movement era are online.
I’m CONFUSED! Where are all of the trans heroes who were solely responsible for every good thing that has ever happened for us?!? I guess that they were always camera-shy. That must be it.
My own memoirs can be found here:
Your question is one I have asked myself, and I’ve been in the movement since 1972. It was after1975 when I first met a trans and she was intent of marrying a straight man and living a heterosexual life.
I agree with the comments here. Where is Marsha P. Johnson and others who are supposed to be the hero’s of the beginning of the gay rights movement. Oh right, no where.