On this day in 1956, WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind”. The program, hosted by Richard Heffner, was not only well ahead of its time when it first went on the air in May 1956, it is still an acclaimed syndicated program on American Public Television,
Heffner and The Open Mind hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality. The Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder featured a review of the program by Sten Russell (real name: Stella Rush).
“The moderator asked if the homosexual could accept himself if society didn’t accept him. The conclusion was that it was very difficult, indeed. The moderator asked if there were cultural factors in the present making for more homosexuality. Miss Kelley asked if homosexuality were [sic] growing or just being more talked about. She cited Kinsey’s books as examples. The moderator said that the matter of national “security” had focused attention on this problem. He mentioned blackmail potential as part of the “security problem”.
Laidlaw said that a homosexual was not necessarily neurotic or psychotic, but that he was more likely to be in certain ways, due mainly to the pressures of public opinion which caused him to have to hide and cover up his actions and desires. Dean Swift was concerned as to the shock children experienced when approached by adult males. Laidlaw said that that depended on the predisposition of the child. Miss Kelley said that she was not worried about the “predisposition of the child,” but that the American Law Institute wished to protect any child from the traumatic shock of any sexual attack.
Despite the misinformation and prejudices,the show was as eveven-handeds as it possibly could have been at the time which outraged the New York Archdioceses of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Francis Spellman started a war with the station and threatened to go to the FCC to have the NBC affiliate’s broadcasting license revoked.
That didn’t stop Heffner or WRCA. They scheduled another program on homosexuality just two months later which was followed by another in January. The episodes covered topics including whether homosexuality should be treated as a criminal or a medical matter, nature vs. nurture as the cause of homosexuality, and how society indoctrinates young people into gender roles
Unfortunately, no surviving tape of this episode still exists just this one still shot below.
In 1955, the Illinois General Assembly inaugurated the gargantuan task of overhauling its criminal code. Since its last major revision in 1874, the code had accumulated a patchwork of conflicting and confusing statues, some of which made no sense in the 20th century. Horse thieves, for example, were punished with a minimum penalty of three years in prison, but the maximum penalty for auto theft was only one year.
Over the ensuing six years, an eighteen-member joint committee of the Chicago and Illinois Bar Associations combed through the 148 chapters and 832 sections of the old statute books, using the American Law Institute’s 1956 Model Penal Code as a guide. The ALI had put together its Model Penal Code because a number of states were planning to revise their criminal codes over the next decade, and the 1956 Model Code recommended the elimination of all prohibitions against consensual sexual activity between consenting adults, including those which criminalized homosexual activity and relationships. Because the Model Penal Code also touched on a plethora of other criminal statues, it’s likely that most Illinois lawmakers didn’t realize that they were repealing their anti-sodomy law by adopting the omnibus legislation. Nevertheless, the code was adopted and signed into law by Gov. Otto Kerner on July 28th, 1961, and the anti-sodomy law’s repeal became effective on January 1, 1962.
That didn’t mean however that eliminating the state’s anti-sodomy law was entirely by mistake. A booklet describing the new code prepared for Chicago Police by Claude R. Sowele, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s law school, commented, “The Law should not be cluttered with matters of morality so long as they do not endanger the community. Morality should be left to the church, community and the individual’s own conscience.” While Illinois became the first state to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships, the change in the state’s criminal code had few practical benefits for the state’s LGBT population, as police raids and harassment on other pretexts (or no pretext) would continue without letup for another two decades.
Illinois would remain the only state in the union to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships until 1971, when Connecticut would finally rescind its sodomy law, followed by Colorado and Oregon (1972), Hawaii and North Dakota (1973), Ohio (1974), New Hampshire and New Mexico (1975). The big year was 1976, when California, Indiana, Maine, Washington and West Virginia stopped criminalizing homosexuality. By the time Lawrence v. Texas struck down all sodomy laws nationwide in 2003, thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had eliminated their anti-homosexuality laws, either by legislative action or by state court decisions.
On this day in July 1967, just under 2 years before the Stonewall Riots in the United States – The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 received royal assent from Elizabeth II, decriminalizing private homosexual acts in England and Wales. The age of consent for homosexual acts was set at 21, compared to 16 for heterosexual acts.
In the 1960s, one MP, Leo Abse, and a peer, Lord Arran, put forward proposals to change the way in which criminal law treated homosexual men by means of the Sexual Offences Bill. This attempt to liberalise the law relating to male homosexuality can be placed in a context of the rising number of prosecutions of homosexual men.
In his 1965 Sexual Offences Bill, Lord Arran drew heavily upon the findings of the Wolfenden Report (1957) which recommended the decriminalization of certain homosexual offences.
The Wolfenden committee had been set up to investigate homosexuality and prostitution in the mid 1950s, and included on its panel a judge, a psychiatrist, an academic and various theologians. They came to the conclusion (with one dissenter) that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. The position was summarized by the committee as follows: “unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law’s business” (Wolfenden Report, 1957).
There was no political impetus after the publication of the Wolfenden report to legislate on this matter, but by 1967 the Labour Government of the time showed support for Lord Arran’s mode of liberal thought. It was considered that criminal law should not penalise homosexual men, already the object of ridicule and derision. The comments of Roy Jenkins, Home Secretary at the time, captured the government’s attitude: “those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives” (quoted during parliamentary debate by The Times on 4 July 1967).
The Bill received royal assent on July 27, 1967 after an intense late night debate in the House of Commons.
Lord Arran, in an attempt to minimize criticisms that the legislation would lead to further public debate and visibility of issues relating to homosexual civil rights made the following qualification to this “historic” milestone: “I ask those [homosexuals] to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behavior now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… [And] make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done”
The Act applied only to England and Wales and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces
The 1,433-seat Adonis Theater was originally built as the Tivoli Theater in 1921 by Billy Rose for Fanny Brice of all people and it was one of a kind. But as time went by the grandly opulent vaudeville house turned movie theater on Eighth Avenue and 51st Street in its declining years became famous for anonymous stud romping, porn, and SEX SEX SEX.
It was a cinema palace that survived by giving Doris Day and Rock Hudson (oh the irony of it all) the pink slip and bringing in and out and in again Jack Wrangler, Kip Knoll, Richard Locke, and the infamous Falcon Video-Pac guys to survive and became one of New York’s most popular ALL-GAY adult theater in the 1970s and early 1980’s.
Not much history remains of the Adonis in books or on the internet just a few fading memories of those who who wandered its dark interior in days and nights of an era long gone by.
The Adonis came complete with a grand lobby and a balcony flanked by solid two-story Ionic columns. Even as men prowled the aisles looking for sex the vast if not somewhat faded grandness of the theater could not be overlooked. Even Variety went so far as to peg it as the largest and most lavish gay porn theater in New York City.
In the late 70’s the Adonis was a sexual amusement part. While the images of Jack Wrangler and Movies by Joe Gage flickered on the screen men in the aisles, the seats, the balcony, the bathrooms, and anywhere they could find would act out their sexual fantasies. Sundays were so crowded that it was hard to find a seat in Adonis but that was all that was hard to find. Patrons would avoid the seats under the balcony’s edge at busy times for fear of being showered with semen from high above.
The Adonis was crowded at most times of the day, and night. Sleazy, and dark, it attracted a fun, fast crowd. Instead of popcorn, you could buy small tubs of lube, cock rings, and poppers at the concession stand. And for “boys on a budget” If one didn’t have the $7 admission you could easily meet someone in front of the theater to pay your entrance fee.
The Adonis’ house manager had a stake in the career of iconic porn star Jack Wrangler. So in 1977, a film called A Night at the Adoniswas shot in the theater. Theater employees such as Bertha the cashier acted in bit roles, and as soon as a print was readied it was on the screen at The Adonis.
A net posting by Oliver Penn recalls the movie. . . “it was rather odd to be in the exact theater that was being depicted on the screen, sort of a movie coming to life all around you. What was happening on the screen was also happening in real life as you were watching the film.”
But the theater’s size, age, and the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic took its toll. There were also some serious structural problems because of its age and lack of upkeep. In the mid-’80 the balcony collapsed. Luckily no one was hurt
Real estate developers that had a stake in the neighborhood and deeply closeted Mayor Ed Koch who was using the AIDS epidemic to clean up Times Square trying to get the theater closed down to tidy it up for the building of the monolith Worldwide Plaza, soon to be built on the next block. One prospective tenant, a homophobic law firm Cravath, Swain & Moore, stipulated that the theater had to close before Worldwide Plaza was built. The plaza’s developer, William Zeckendorf, subsequently bought up the site, and that was the beginning of the end of the Adonis.
Later a little-known bizarre postscript to this story surfaced when a partner in said law firm David Schwartz—instrumental in shuttering the Adonis—was murdered by an 18-year-old male prostitute whom he’d spent the day with at his Connecticut summer home and then took to a sleazy Bronx motel. Schwartz had been stabbed 27 times. It turned out that this moral pillar of the community who had a wife and three children liked rough street trade and had been living a double life for years.
But The Adonis did live on for a bit longer and transferred its name to another theater owned by further south on Eighth Avenue, at 44th Street which was quickly outfitted with campy Greek statues and Roman columns but it wasn’t the same. Not long after the city of New York was doing its best to close down every gay sex establishment in NYC and “new” Adonis was eventually closed in 1994 by the City’s Health Department after a raid revealed high-risk sexual activities taking place among patrons.
The grand old Adonis Theatre would stand like a grey ghost until the spring of 1995 on its corner of 8th Avenue and 51st Street until it was demolished. Now its memory is a ghostly reminder of the heyday of gay sexual freedom in a now scared and scary post-AID world.
Do you have stories about The Adonis or other forgotten NYC gay places? If so leave them in the comments.
For those of you too young to remember the movie Cruising it is a 1980 psychological thriller film directed by William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame and starring Al Pacino. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name, by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker. It’s about a rookie NYPD cop that goes undercover to bait a homophobic serial killer in the leather and S&M world of New York’s Greenwich Village.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ( back when they had a task and did something ) in a letter to the New York Times wrote that “in the context of an anti-homosexual society, a film about violent, sex-obsessed gay men would be seen as a film about all gay people. The psychosexual dynamic of Cruising is certainly questionable—deliberately so, to some extent—though in chalking up violent homoerotic impulses to unresolved daddy issues, the movie may be a greater insult to the intelligence of psychoanalysts than to the sensibilities of gays.”
The movie suffered a huge backlash from the LGBT community which did everything it could to disrupt the movies filming in Greenwich Village and promotion in NYC.
Village Voice writer Arthur Bell was the person who raised a call for full-out sabotage of the movie writing that Friedkin’s film “promises to be the most oppressive, ugly, bigoted look at homosexuality ever presented on the screen,” he wrote, “the worst possible nightmare of the most uptight straight. I implore readers . . . to give Friedkin and his production crew a terrible time if you spot them in your neighborhoods.”
Gay-owned businesses on Christopher Street barred the filmmakers from their premises. People attempted to interfere with shooting by pointing mirrors from rooftops to ruin lighting for scenes, blasting whistles and air horns near locations, and playing loud music. One thousand protesters marched through the East Village demanding the city withdraw support for the film to which Mayor (and famous closet case) Ed Koch responded, “Whether it is a group that seeks to make the gay life exciting or to make it negative, it’s not our job to look into that.”
Al Pacino who starred in the movie said that he understood the protests but insisted that upon reading the screenplay he never at any point felt that the film was anti-gay. He said that the leather bars were “just a fragment of the gay community, the same way the Mafia is a fragment of Italian-American life,” referring to The Godfather and that he would “never want to do anything to harm the gay community”.
Friedkin asked noted gay author John Rechy, to screen Cruising just before its release. Rechy had written an essay defending Friedkin’s right to make the film, although not defending the film itself. At Rechy’s suggestion, Friedkin deleted a scene showing the Gay Liberation Front slogan “We Are Everywhere” as graffiti on a wall just before the first body part is pulled from the river, and added a disclaimer:
“This film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world, which is not meant to be representative of the whole.”
Friedkin later claimed that it was the MPAA and United Artists that required the disclaimer, calling it “part of the dark bargain that was made to get the film released at all ” and “a sop to organized gay rights groups”. Friedkin also said that no one involved in making the film thought it would be considered representative of the entire gay community, but the late great gay film historian Vito Russo disputed Fredkin’s claims citing the disclaimer as “an admission of guilt” writing “What director would make such a statement if he truly believed that his film would not be taken to be representative of the whole?”
Now over 40 years later despite the content of the movie which by today’s standards seems schlocky and mediocre at best. Snippets of Cruising are easily one the most graphic and true depiction of the NYC underground gay leather scene ever seen in a mainstream movie and is also in a way, a documentary of a time and places lost in history with background shots of the West Village and West Side highway that capture that period in time.
Locations like The Ramrod, The Anvil, Mineshaft, and the Eagle’s Nest (the latter two eventually barred Friedkin from the premises) have been gone for decades, but Cruising is a flashback to a time of poppers, color-coded pocket hankies, hardcore discos, bathhouses, backrooms, park cruising and yes even Crisco. It is a visual time capsule back to a part of our history that has been overshadowed by the plague known as AIDS that would soon wreak havoc on the gay community in the years after the movie was released.
Like it or not the movie Cruising is a part of our history and reflects an era of images and memories that are slowly being lost forever.
Note: The exterior entrance of the club that Al Pacino enters is the door to the infamous Mineshaft in NYC. (CLICK HERE to learn more about The Mineshaft.)But as stated above Friedkin was barred from filming within the establishment. The next shot of Pacino walking down the stairs was filmed at the Hellfire Club Sex Club in the Triangle building on 14th Street which later would house J’s Hangout and home of the New York Jacks on 14th and Hudson Street.
What now stands in its spot is the gentrified 675 Bar which is described as a “subdued lounge attempts to bring back some dignity to the Meatpacking District with pedigreed cocktails, and uncomplicated entertainment”
DO YOU THINK HOMOSEXUALS ARE REVOLTING?
YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS WE ARE!
We’re going to make a place for ourselves in the revolutionary movement. We challenge the myths that are screwing up this society. MEETING: Thursday, July 24th, 6:30 PM at Alternate U, 69 West 14th Street at Sixth Avenue.
*Printed on the first leaflet of the Gay Liberation Front.
In 1969 the leading gay political organization in operation was the Mattachine Society of New York (MSNY), which utilized very buttoned-down, straight-laced legal techniques to try to advance equality. But right after the Stonewall Riots a group of gay men and lesbians fed up with being abused and the slowness and exclusion of the Mattachine Society’s techniques formed the Gay Liberation Front.
One of the GLF’s first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. This was the first gay pride parade in New York in June 1970. As the flier shows below, this inaugural gathering was called Liberation Day and featured a “Gay-In” in Central Park, consciousness-raising groups, dances, and women-only potluck dinners making the first pride not only a protest but also a community event.
The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles but first and foremost their fight was focused on gay rights.
The Gay Liberation Front sought to avoid many of the pitfalls they saw in the political tactics of groups like Mattachine. Where Mattachine activists had sought to project an image of respectability, the new gay liberationists would fight against mainstream attitudes and values. They would “start demanding, not politely requesting, our rights.”
GLF members openly claimed the word “Gay,” which had been avoided by the previous generation of gay and lesbian activists in favor of cryptic, inoffensive names: Mattachine, Bilitis, Janus. They demanded liberation in the spirit of the national-liberation.
GLFs did not hide or feel ashamed of their sexuality. They claimed it publicly, and they urged others to do the same long before Harvey Milk stated the same request in San Francisco. The GLF, called for LGBT people to come “out of the closet and into the streets,” and also believed that patriarchy and sexism were the root cause of the disenfranchisement of people and that assimilation wasn’t the answer, and that to gain rights. (Tell that to the HRC.)
GLF meetings were run by consensus. While this was not the most efficient method of decision-making, it created an opportunity for dialogue that transformed its members. The core activists of GLF — who included Michael Brown, Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, Bob Martin, Marty Robinson, Karla Jay, and Bob Kohler among many others — organized marches on Time magazine and The Village Voice, fund-raising dances, consciousness-raising groups, and radical study groups, and published their newspaper, Come Out!, out of the Alternate U. on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. GLF eventually became a network of semi-autonomous cells. Groups such as the Red Butterfly Cell, the 28th of June Cell, the Planned Non-Parenthood Cell, the Gay Commandoes, and the Aquarius Cell each pursued a specialized agenda, free from the demands of establishing an overall GLF consensus. GLF quickly became the incubator of the new gay and lesbian mass political movement. Although many activists moved on to create more focused gay and lesbian organizations, GLF transformed the consciousness of everyone it touched.
The Gay Liberation Front aimed to create a society free not only from sexism and homophobia but also from sexual labels (and intersectionality).
Legendary poet, novelist, and university professor Samuel Morris Steward also known as Phil Andros and Phil Sparrow was born on this day in Woodsfield, Ohio.
Born into a Methodist household, Steward converted to Catholicism during his university years, but by the time he accepted his teaching position at Loyola University, he had long since abandoned the Catholic Church.
Steward led one of the most extraordinary (and unknown) gay lives of the twentieth century. Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail. He was also an intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder,
After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago’s notorious South State Street, Steward met famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in late 1949 and subsequently became an unofficial collaborator with Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research. During his years of work with the Institute, Steward collected and donated sexually themed materials to the Kinsey archive, gave Kinsey access to his lifelong sexual records, introduced him to large numbers of sexually active men in the Chicago area, and provided him with large numbers of early sex Polaroid photographs which he took during the frequent all-male sex parties he held in his Chicago apartment. He also allowed Kinsey to take detailed photographs of that sexually-themed apartment. He ultimately donated a large number of drawings, paintings, and decorative objects that he had created to the Institute.
In the spring of 1950, at Kinsey’s invitation, he was filmed engaging in BDSM sex with Mike Miksche, an erotic artist from New York also known as Steve Masters.
After Gertrude Stein, Kinsey was Steward’s most important mentor; he later described Kinsey not only “as approachable as a park bench” but also as a god-like bringer of enlightenment to mankind, thus giving him the nickname, “Doctor Prometheus.”
During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros. Initially, he wrote for the Danish magazine Eos/Amigo. Some of his early works described his fascination with rough trade and sadomasochistic sex; others focused on the power dynamics of interracial sexual encounters between men. In 1966, thanks to changes in American publishing laws, he was able to publish his story collection $TUDwith Guild Press in the United States.
By the late 1960s, Steward had started writing a series of pulp pornographic novels featuring the hustler Phil Andros as narrator. Unlike modern gay porn, Steward’s was exceptionally well written to the point where some characters spouted Shakespeare while they screwed handsome young men. His descriptions of sex are among the most graphic in the language.
During his final years in Chicago, Steward befriended beefcake photographer Chuck Renslow, owner of Kris Studio, and Renslow’s partner, Dom Orejudos, the homoerotic illustrator also known as “Stephen” and “Etienne.” Renslow would later go on to open The Gold Coast, Chicago’s first leather bar, and to found IML, or International Mr. Leather, a yearly gathering of leathermen from around the world.
But there was a downside to Steward’s life. that came with enormous physical, professional, and psychological costs. The frustration from living in a closeted era combined with his obsession drove Steward to alcoholism which he eventually overcame. He suffered through long periods of dark depression, loneliness, and self-destructive behavior. Dangerously violent characters and sex fascinated Steward, and his overtures and adventures frequently landed him in the hospital.
In his later years, Steward’s abilities as a writer were compromised by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a barbiturate addiction.
Samuel Steward died at the age of 83 in Berkeley, California, and left behind over 80 boxes full of drawings, letters, photographs, sexual paraphernalia, manuscripts, and other items, including an autograph and reliquary with pubic hair from Rudolph Valentino, a thousand-page confessional journal Steward created at the request of the sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and a green metal card catalog labeled “Stud File,” which contained a meticulously documented record on index cards of every sexual experience and partner.
The attic full of items contained a secret history of a little-documented strand of gay life in the middle decades of the 20th century. Steward’s experience stands in stark contrast to the familiar story of furtive concealment and persecution in the period before gay liberation. As new biographies of artists and writers like E.M. Forster detail the effects of sexual repression on their work, Steward’s history shows what a life of openness, when embraced, entailed day to day.
The City of New Orleans, Louisiana might be known as he Big Easy today but as in many cities throughout the country during the 1950s, members of the homosexual community in New Orleans were often victims of violence and were often arrested because of their sexuality. The “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (“Let the good times roll.”) mindset didn’t extend to the city’s gay citizens, and much like other major cities across the nation, anti-gay campaigns often heated up ahead of local elections.
In n 1958, city councilmen complained that the police were sitting on their hands while the French Quarter was being invaded by roving bands of homosexuals, allegedly from other cities since, apparently, such a thing was unheard of there, the city’s storied tolerance for sexual eccentrics in music, literature and the arts notwithstanding. One councilman complained of awful looking people all day and all night in the French Quarter,” and wondered why police had only made 86 arrests in two years on charges of lewd behavior or wearing women’s clothing. Police Supt. Provosty A. Dayries responded, “You can’t just point to someone and say he or she is a deviate — that is one of the frustrating things about the problem.”
Amid complaints about lax police enforcement and courts that insisted that those arrested should be charged with something specific and based on real evidence, Mayor Morrison appointed his half-brother, Jacob Morrison to head a citizen’s committee to look into the problem. With pressure increasing across all sectors of city government, Supt. Dayries launched a raid against known “deviate bars,” arresting eighteen people (mostly bar employees) on charges of vagrancy, disturbing the peace, and “no visible means of support.” Thirty others were warned to stay away. While most of the charges were dropped the next day the city’s principal newspaper, the Times Picayune, would publish (their) names and address…under the heading, ‘Crimes Against Nature.
Two months later in September three Tulane undergrads wanted to partake of “time honored tradition, for fraternities” called “rolling a queer.” Fernando Rios a Mexico City-based tour guide was their chosen victim. He was beaten and robbed in an alleyway, left unconscious on the sidewalk, and died later that day. During January of 1959, his assailants were charged but acquitted under the “gay panic” defense, and the courtroom cheered.
1845:In Paris, a mob attacks a group of about 50 men arrested by police in a sweep of the Tuileries Gardens, a popular cruising area.
The Archives de la Bastille contain hundreds of reports of conversations between “sodomites” and police decoys in public spaces such as the Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens. The reports include many of the same comments and gestures, as well as numerous variants in their opening lines. Thus, for example: Charles Gentil accosted a man listening to music emanating from the Tuileries palace by noting that “there are some fine instruments in this ensemble” and adding that “there are others that do not make so much noise but give more pleasure” (from the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Archives de la Bastille, November 1, 1728). He explained by exposing himself, as countless others did without the clever verbal prelude. Many “sodomites” discussed their endowments or endurance, preferences and adventures, all in order to impress and entice the object of their desires. Some declared that they had never liked women (sometimes in misogynistic terminology) and always liked men—which begins to sound like an assertion of personal sexual identity.
The Society, founded upon the highest ethical and social principles, serves as an example for homosexuals to follow and provides a dignified standard upon which the rest of society can base a more intelligent and accurate picture of the nature of homosexuality than currently obtains in the public mind. The Society provides the instrument necessary to work with civic-minded and socially valuable organizations and supplies the means for the assistance of our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression. Only a Society, providing an enlightened leadership, can rouse the homosexuals — one of the largest minorities in America today — to take the actions necessary to elevate themselves from the social ostracism an unsympathetic culture has perpetrated upon them.
1983: The House votes 420 to 3 to censure Representatives Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.) and Daniel B. Crane (R-Ill.) for sexual misconduct with House pages. Studds later reads reporters a statement saying that the censure was not warranted: his affair with the page was private and mutually voluntary. He adds that he hopes “to emerge from the present situation a wiser, a more tolerant and a more complete human being.” The censure strips Studds of his chairmanship of the Coast Guard and Navigation Subcommittee. “We are here to repair the integrity of the United States House of Representatives,” proclaims Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia).
After retiring from Congress in 1997, Studds worked as a lobbyist for the fishing industry.
Studds and partner Dean T. Hara (his companion since 1991) were married in Boston on May 24, 2004, one week after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gerry Studds died on October 14, 2006, in Boston, at age 69, several days after suffering a pulmonary embolism. Due to the federal ban on same-sex marriage, Hara was not eligible, upon Studds’ death, to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.. Hara later joined a federal lawsuit, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, that successfully challenged the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.
1981: Despite having privately acknowledged her “bisexuality” to officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Czechoslovakian- born tennis champion Martina Navratilova is finally granted U.S. citizenship, six years after she defected.
1984: Forty-year-old gay San Franciscan John O’Connell is murdered, and another man injured, when five men, all in their late teens or early twenties, drive into the city from nearby Vallejo looking to “beat up some fags.” The murderers are all released in 1990, after only serving four years of their 15-year-to-life terms.
Even though the Stonewall Riots happened a year earlier change did not happen overnight for the lesbian and gay community in NYC especially when it came to the NYPD. Yes, the gay community was a bit more organized but the police continued to raid gay bars and clubs, nearly all of which continued to be mob-owned.
At this time in history, the community found itself fighting on two fronts:
Against direct harassment by the police.
From getting caught in the crossfire between organized crime and corrupt police officials.
Gay activist Randy Wicker described what happened at The Barn, an after-hours club in the early morning hours of July 18, 1970. in his column in GAY, the nation’s first weekly gay newspaper:
Barn Baloney Bared: New York Police raided the Barn Sunday, July 18th, issued summonses to nine employees, and sent dozens of patrons scrambling out of the back rooms and into the streets. Management mafiosi reportedly took to the streets also shouting “gay power” and urging the patrons to return hoping to provoke a confrontation a-la-Stonewall. The Police left shortly thereafter and most of the patrons re-entered the club. “These raids shouldn’t be conducted at all,” Marty Robinson, GAA (Gay Activists Alliance) Political Affairs Committee chairman, declared. “We don’t like these management people running around the street shouting ‘gay power’ to further their ends. Gaypeople should not simply be pawns in a power struggle between the police and underworld elements. A conference with Police Commissioner Leary has been arranged to discuss this matter more fully.
And they did meet. Exactly one month later.
Robinson led a delegation to meet to discuss the problem of the mafia-owned bars as well as how the police treated gay people.
As GAY reported on August 17, 1970: Jim Owles, president of GAA, told Commissioner Leary that the homosexual community is achieving a new awareness of itself and its problems, partly as a result of its witnessing other minority group struggles and partly as a result of the problem. with the police that the gay community continually faces. He charged that raids on after-hours gay bars were made at hours on weekend nights, with police by their mere presence intimidating scores of patrons. “They hang around, they check I.D .’s at random. they indulge in verbal abuse, they station one man at the door and a patrol car out front for several minutes.
Just 3 months earlier on March 8th. 1970 at about 5:00 am in the morning the NYPD once again led by Officer Seymore Pine raided the Snake Pit, an after-hours bar at 211 West 10th. Street in Greenwich Village. Pine showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and arrested all 167 customers mostly all gay men, staff, and owners and took them to the station house, which violated police policy.
One patron, Diego Vinales, panicked. An immigrant from Argentina who was in the country illegally, he feared what would happen to him in the police station and tried to escape by jumping out a second-story window. He landed on a fence below, its 14-inch spikes piercing his leg and pelvis. He was not only critically wounded but was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As paramedics attended to Vinales, a cop told a fireman, “You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,”
Viñales was eventually taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital. He survived after spending weeks in the hospital and when released moved back to Argentina.