Tag Archives: Gay History

Gay History – August 1966: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, San Francisco [WATCH: Screaming Queens]

On an warm August night in San Francisco in 1966 (no one knows the exact date since SFPD files have been lost) at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a seedy eatery in the Tenderloin district one of the first rebellions against the oppression of the LGBT community.

Compton’s became a sanctuary drag queens, young gay street hustlers, and down-and-out regulars much to the chagrin of it’s owners.

One August night the management who were finally fed-up and annoyed by the noisy crowd at one table, called the police. When a surly cop, accustomed to manhandling the Compton’s clientele, attempted to arrest one of the drag queens, she threw her coffee in his face and mayhem erupted. Windows broke, furniture flew through the air and the hustlers and drag queens fought back. Police reinforcements then arrived, and the fighting spilled into the street.

For the first time, the gay hustlers and drag queens banded together to fight back.  Getting the better of the cops, they kicked, punched and stomped on the cops with their high-heels. For everyone at Compton’s that night, one thing was certain — things there would never be the same again.

There is so much more to the story of the Compton Cafeteria than those bare-bones facts. In 1966 San Francisco it was unlawful to crossdress and it was unlawful to “impersonate a female.” Drag performers, transvestites, effeminate gay males, and rough trade hustlers experienced frequent harassment by police, including arrests, beatings and demeaning jailhouse treatment.  With no rights, employment or public accommodation protections, prostitution became survival sex work — it was the only way a drag queen or a down and out hot young guy could make a living.

The violent reaction of the drag queens and gays at the Compton’s Cafeteria did not solve the problems that they were having in the Tenderloin on daily basis. It did, however, create a space in which it became possible for the city of San Francisco to begin relating differently to the community — to begin treating them, in fact, as citizens with legitimate needs instead of simply as a problem to get rid of. That shift in awareness was a crucial step for the contemporary  social justice movement — the beginning of a new relationship to state power and social legitimacy. 

Gay History – August 7, 1931: American Solider Found Guilty of Sodomy Sent To Alcatraz Prison

Clyde Findell Hicks was born in Oak Grove, Durham, North Carolina on September 5, 1910. On April 13, 1930 at the age of 20, he was listed as a soldier residing in Barracks #158 at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

On August 7, 1931 Hicks was sentenced to six years in prison for the crime of sodomy with an early parole date of August 7, 1935. After serving almost 3 years of his sentence on June 19, 1934 he was transferred to the infamous maximum security prison of Alcatraz of the coast of San Francisco becoming one of the first prisoners on the island.  Even though he wasn’t a hardened criminal as some of the other inmates were he was put into Solitary on December 3 and 4, 1934 for “for conveying a note from one prisoner to another”.  Two other prisoners were put in Solitary that day, and stayed in much longer, for causing a ruckus and planning an escape. The note may have contained information concern this plan.

Despite his solitary confinement, Clyde seems to have otherwise been on his best behavior, he was discharged on his minimum sentence date, August 7, 1935. 

Clyde Hicks who spent 4 years in prison for his desires for other men a year later married a girl named Mary Wolfe of Mt. Airy on December 19, 1936.

Clyde Hicks passed away in Durham, North Carolina on December 5, 1993.

There are those who claim his ghost returned to Alcatraz Island to haunt the prison for being  incarcerated there for the crime of loving another man.

Clyde Hicks

Gay History – August 5, 1970: NYC Drops Charges Against The Gay Activists Alliance “Rockefeller Five”.

One of our earliest activists groups the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) which was founded in New York City on December 21, 1969, just 5 months after the Stonewall riots by dissident members of the Gay Liberation Front( GLF).  Instead of working on multiple issues the GAA wanted to concentrate on a “single issue” the goal being to “secure basic human rights, dignity and freedom for all gay people.”

The Gay Activists Alliance was most active from 1970 to 1974  and performed what they called zaps, (protests conceived by Marty Robinson) which were public peaceful confrontations with officials to draw media attention. Some of their more visible actions included protests against an anti-gay episode on the popular TV series Marcus Welby, M.D., a zap of Mayor John Lindsay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and later at Radio City Music Hall, But the most well known was a sit in at the offices of then Governor Rockefeller as part of a push for a Gay Civil Rights Bill to become state law

As told by GAA member Paul Martin:

“At the New York State Republican Headquarters in Manhattan on June 25, 1970 a number of G.A.A. members walked into the tenth floor offices of the New York State Republican Headquarters and demanded to see Governor Nelson Rockefeller about the issue of gay civil rights in New York State. They were informed that the governor wasn’t in the office at that moment and, strangely, didn’t seem interested in coming over to talk with them. And so the upstairs action began. When asked to leave the demonstrators refused and held a sit in.
 
Downstairs we were marching around chanting as loudly as we could; loud was a G.A.A. trademark. There were never more than ten of us downstairs. Upstairs the Republicans had decided that they’d ignore the people who were sitting in, demanding to see Governor Rockefeller. About two hours into the action Arthur Bell came down and told us that they could hear us over the general noise of the city up in the Republican Headquarters office! He told us that we sounded like there were fifty people or more down in the street demonstrating. A large crowd had gathered around to see what we were doing, and when the Republicans looked out the window they couldn’t tell that the demonstration consisted of only the small number of people in the middle of that large crowd. I don’t think there was ever more than a few continuous seconds of silence on that picket line. Did I mention we were loud?
 
Upstairs there were negotiations, there were demands, and there were requests to leave. The demonstration lasted for hours and hours. Finally, after the Republicans couldn’t stand it anymore, they had five of the sit in demonstrators arrested for criminal trespass. We cheered them as they were led away in handcuffs, and at long last we could stop yelling. My voice never actually recovered from that day.
 
At a meeting of the G.A.A. Political Action Committee (it had nothing to do with campaign contributions) some time later we were all wondering what to call the people who had been arrested. Suggestions were tossed around. I suggested “The Rockefeller Five,” which was met with silence. Shortly, Arthur Evans, one of the arrestees, said, “How about ‘The Rockefeller Five?’” and there was suddenly great jubilation in the room. That was the name that stuck. And I learned a lesson about groups’ expectations and how it shapes the way they listen to you or not.
 
The Rockefeller Five went through court appearance after court appearance, and months after the action the charges were simply dropped. The Rockefeller Five action was one of those ongoing activities that G.A.A. could sustain that were to prove crucial to pushing gay liberation forward in the seventies.”

The charges against the activist were dismissed

The GAA’s  theory stated that consciousness would be raised through activism rather than through introspection.  Its deliberate goal was to effect the lives of as many people as possible by raising consciousness through activism rather than through introspection to effect the lives of as many people as possible.

Here are some of the actions that GAA did in the early seventies.  Many of which are slowly being forgotten. And all of which are worthy of note and remembrance.

  • Occupied St. Patrick’s Cathedral after yet another defeat of a bill by the City Council. This occurred on a weekday afternoon. Pete Fisher sang his gay freedom songs sitting on the steps of the main altar. A meeting with a representative from the archdiocese was demanded and held — obviously Church policy hasn’t moved.
  • Invaded the New York City Taxi Commission to protest its requirement that gays have psychiatric examinations before they could be licensed. The requirement was dropped.
  • Invaded the office of the New York City Clerk after he refused to issue a marriage license to two men wishing to be married by the Church of the Holy Disciple.
  • Zapped and lobbied the American Psychiatric Association in a successful effort to force it to remove the diagnosis of homosexuality from its listing of psychiatric disorders. Ron Gold, chairperson of GAA’s media committee, has long been denied the credit he deserves for directing the campaign that resulted in this most important achievement.
  • Took over the editorial offices of the New York Daily News in response to a viscous anti-gay editorial. The News never did another editorial like that one.
  • Sat in at the offices of Gertrude Unser, President of the New York City Board of Education to protest biased hiring and firing practices. Those biases were soon lifted from official Board of Education policies.
  • Zapped police and occupied the District Attorney’s offices in Hauppauge, Long Island and Bridgeport, Connecticut to protest Police harassment and the brutal beatings of several GAA members.
  • In conjunction with STAR, Street Transvestite Activist Revolution, picketed and held a demonstration at Rikers Island Mental Hospital to protest its treatment of transvestites. One result was Marsha Johnson’s escape to New York.
  • Demonstrated at Times Square to protest police harassment of hustlers and transvestites.
  • Established New York’s first Lesbian and Gay Community Center at the GAA Firehouse. Vito Russo held the first lesbian and gay film festival there.
  • Zapped CBS and ABC News to protest anti-gay tone of its reporting. They shaped up. Dick Cavett, whose relentless anti-gay spiels had become unbearable, was forced to give time to GAA spokespeople on his national TV show after one Zap and the threat of others

Now almost 50 years later we are still fighting the battle that the GAA began. The battle  “to demand our Liberation from repression and for our rights to be written into the documents that protect the rights of all people, for without that writing there can be no guarantees of protection from the larger society.”

We must remember the GAA and all the other early LGBT activists and  groups that started our fight for equality. It is imperative to our community that we not only remember but learn from them but to finish the fight and to use their history and teachings to our advantage.

The Rockefller Five Gay History

Gay History – August 4, 1956: NBC Airs “Introduction to the Problem of Homosexuality”

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 even handed 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.

An Open Mind

Gay History – February 20, 1927 – August 03, 1986: Roy Cohn The Most Evil, Self Loathing, Despicable Closet Case In History

In our history we have heroes and villains  And there could be no one more villainous and despicable in gay history than the monster named Roy Cohn.

Cohn born to an observant Jewish family in The Bronx, New York City on February 20th, 1927 howed signs of legal brilliance early, having been admitted to the bar at twenty-one, becoming an Assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan and playing a prominent role in the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1951. Cohn always took great pride in the Rosenberg verdict and claimed to have played an even greater part than his public role. He said in his autobiography that his own influence had led to both Chief Prosecutor Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman being appointed to the case. He further said that Kaufman imposed the death penalty, based on his personal recommendation

In 1952, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) appointed him as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on the recommendation of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, where Cohn became known for his aggressive questioning of “suspected” Communists. Cohn preferred not to hold hearings in open forums, which went well with McCarthy’s preference for holding “executive sessions” and “off-the-record” sessions away from the Capitol in order to minimize public scrutiny and to question witnesses with relative impunity. Cohn was given free rein in pursuit of many investigations, with McCarthy joining in only for the more publicized sessions.

Cohn invited his “friend” G. David Schine, an anti-Communist propagandist, to join McCarthy’s staff as a consultant. When Schine was drafted into the US Army in 1953, Cohn made repeated and extensive efforts to procure special treatment for Schine. He contacted military officials from the Secretary of the Army down to Schine’s company commander and demanded for Schine to be given light duties, extra leave, and exemption from overseas assignment. light duties, extra leave, an exemption from overseas assignment — and threatened to “wreck the Army” if they didn’t accede to his demands. The bitter irony of all this is that while Cohn was pursuing special treatment for his “special friend”, McCarthy’s witch hunt extended beyond communists to also include gay people. (See The Lavender Scare) That conflict, along with McCarthy’s accusations of Communists in the defense department, led to the Army–McCarthy hearings of 1954, in which among other developments the Army charged Cohn and McCarthy with using improper pressure on Schine’s behalf, and McCarthy and Cohn countercharged that the Army was holding Schine “hostage” in an attempt to squelch McCarthy’s investigations into Communists in the Army. During the hearings, a photograph of Schine was introduced, and Joseph N. Welch, the Army’s attorney in the hearings, accused Cohn of doctoring the image to show Schine alone with Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens.  Welch asked the staffer sarcastically, “Did you think it came from a pixie?” McCarthy interjected, “Will counsel (Welch) for my benefit define– I think he might be an expert on that– what a pixie is?” Welch responded, “Yes. I should say, Mr. Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy.” in a jab at Cohn. Others in the chamber who were in on the rumors, broke into laughter. Cohn later called the remark, “malicious,” “wicked,” and “indecent.”

Although the findings of the hearings blamed Cohn rather than McCarthy, they are widely considered an important element of McCarthy’s disgrace. After the Army–McCarthy hearings, Cohn resigned from McCarthy’s staff and went into private practice.

After leaving McCarthy, Cohn had a 30-year career as an attorney in New York City. His clients included Donald Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti, Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Texas financier and philanthropist Shearn Moody, Jr., and the New York Yankees baseball club. He was known for his active social life, charitable giving, and combative personality. In the early 1960s he became a member of the John Birch Society and a principal figure in the Western Goals Foundation. He maintained close ties in conservative political circles.  Cohn’s frequent phone pals included Nancy Reagan and the former C.I.A. director William Casey, who “called Roy almost daily during [Reagan’s] 1st election.”  Cohn was also as an informal advisor to Richard Nixon.

Cohn was also friends with the now “President” Donald Trump, and sought advice after they first met asking: How should he and his father respond to Justice Department allegations that their company had systematically discriminated against black people seeking housing?

“My view is tell them to go to hell,” Cohn said, “and fight the thing in court.”

Cohn also showed Trump how to exploit power and instill fear through a simple formula: attack, counterattack and never apologize.

Donald Trump prized Roy Cohn’s friendship and his reputation for aggression. According to a New York Times profile a quarter-century ago, when frustrated by an adversary, Trump would pull out a photograph of Cohn and ask, “Would you rather deal with him?”

In a 2008 article published in The New Yorker magazine Jeffrey Toobin quotes Roger Stone on Cohn’s homosexuality: “Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.  Stone worked with Cohn beginning with the Reagan campaign during the Republican Party presidential primaries, 1976.

While publicly closeted and working actively against gay rights, Cohn partied at the best gay bars and threw lavish parties in New York and Provincetown. In 1984, he was diagnosed with AIDS.

From LIFE magazine: THE SNARLING DEATH OF ROY M. COHN (1988)

Labor Day, 1984. Provincetown was readying itself for another night of dancing and partying, for this was the last holiday of the season. Lying on a chaise on the deck of Roy’s cottage, Russell Eldridge was sick. He was 20 years younger than Roy, but misfortune had come to Russell first. At one time or another Russell had done everything for Roy but get into bed with him. He had mixed the drinks, cut Roy’s hair, brought in the cash from Roy’s various businesses. He ran strange errands, such as rounding up the night’s boys at the Boat Slip bar in Provincetown. Gay people, straight people cottoned to Russell. He had a way of being a part of Roy’s madnesses and yet standing apart from them, looking on with sardonic good humor. Years ago he was supposed to have been wicked, the mean kind of man hustler. He had outgrown his bad self, but now Russell was 50 pounds lighter, a shaking scarecrow, wrapped in towels and lying on Roy’s deck.

There had been great times in Provincetown, but this time Russell hadn’t wanted to come. He couldn’t even walk by himself. “He knew he’d have to pretend he was feeling better than he was for Roy,” Russell’s friend Sue Greenig remembers. “That’s what he did until he couldn’t pretend anymore.” Roy acted as if there were nothing wrong with Russell, though he knew the virus was in both their bodies. Roy wasn’t admitting it, and Russell shouldn’t either.

Cohn used his connections to jump to the head of the line for treatment with the then-scarce and experimental AZT. By the time he died on this date in 1986, he maintained his public denial both of his homosexuality and his disease — he said it was “cancer.”

Cohn  died on August 2, 1986, in Bethesda, Maryland, of complications from AIDS, at the age of 59.[ At death, the IRS seized almost everything he had.

Roy Cohn is buried in Union Field Cemetery in Queens, New York. While his tombstone describes him as a lawyer and a patriot,

Roy Cohn’s name is also on a panel of the AIDS memorial quilt. It reads, “Roy Cohn: Bully, Coward, Victim.”

A fitting eulogy if there ever was one.

 

 

Talk about perfect casting. Watch James Woods as Roy Cohn below in “Citizen Cohn (1992)

Gay History – August 2, 1988: Ronald Reagan Orders Ban on Discrimination Against People With AIDS. But Only For A Certain Few

After ignoring the first 6 years of the AIDS epidemic which helped push many gay men to their graves.  In 1986,  SIX YEARS AFTER the plague began Ronald  Reagan finally requested $85 million for AIDS research. Congress horrified at such a low number bumped that figure up to $244 million only to have Reagan then unsuccessfully try to rescind $50 million of that figure.  After months if fighting Reagan ultimately agreed to Congress’ figure.

In 1987, during the height of the epidemic Reagan once again proposed cutting the research budget for AIDS down to $214 million. Congress again responded dramatically against Reagan by raising it to about $400 million.

On August 2nd, 1988 on a recommendation from a 13-member President’s Commission On the HIV Epidemic, President Reagan ordered a ban on discrimination against federal workers with AIDS. His actions, however drew sharp criticism from AIDS activists for not acting on many of the other recommendations from his commission, which also urged federal legislation to protect HIV+ workers outside of the federal government. The President instead urged a voluntary approach and asked “businesses, unions and schools to examine and consider adopting” similar policies. Acting on a few other recommendations, Reagan also ordered the FDA to notify those who received blood transfusions to advise them to take an HIV test, promised to help accelerate the development of AIDS medications, and ordered another round of studies on the Commission’s 500 other recommendations. Meanwhile, Vice President George Bush, who was running for President, had already endorsed the commission’s recommendations which included a spending increase of $3.1 billion to combat the disease.

Dr. Frank Lilly, the commission’s only openly gay member, criticized Reagan’s limited action on just a tiny handful of the commission’s recommendations. “We’ve got a blueprint for a national policy on AIDS,” he said. “It’s a piece of whole cloth. You can’t pick and choose your own menu from it.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who had led the charge in Congress to increase the federal government’s response to the epidemic, accused Reagan of stalling: “This administration has done its best to avoid making even a single helpful AIDS decision in the eight years of the Reagan presidency,” he said. “They handpick a commission, and then don`t even have the courage to accept its recommendations… What we need is leadership, and while Dr. (Surgeon General C. Everett) Koop and (HIV Commission chairman) Adm. (James) Watkins have given that, once again the President is hiding.”

At this point in time AIDS patients, mostly gay men were dying at a rate of about 80 – 100 per week.

#NeverForget  #NeverForgive

Gay History – August 1970: The Gay Activist Alliance and Gay Liberation Front Battle the NYPD in the “Forgotten Riot”

If you think the Stonewall Riots was the only protest in New York City over police harassment in the gay community think again.

In 1970 after the first Christopher Street Day (PRIDE), gay residents in New York’s Greenwich Village began to notice increased police harassment, particularly during the last three weeks of August.  In one week alone, over three hundred gay men and lesbians had been arrested in the Times Square area. The Gay Liberation Front’s newsletter Come Out! reported that one young man was looking at a display window when a police officer came up to him and asked, Were you ever arrested?”  “No,” the young man replied. The officer said, “There’s always a first time,” and hauled him away. Women were also being harassed, which was a new development.

Local activists had had enough, so on Saturday August 29, 1970, the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists’ Alliance, Radical Lesbians and other women’s groups organized a demonstration. About 250 people showed up at 8th Avenue and West 42nd Street near Times Square, and marched down 7th. Avenue to Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village.

This action has since been known as “The Forgotten Riot.” The demonstration broke up around midnight, but the frustrations were still there. Some went on to march around the Women’s House of Detention at Greenwich Avenue and 6th Avenue. New York City Police arrived to break it up, and the crowd ran toward Christopher Street. The crowd arrived just in time to witness the police raiding a bar called The Haven. As a mass of demonstrators gathered in front of the barand  the police called for reinforcements. A police bus arrived, and it was met with a shower of bottles. A running battle ensued over the next two hours, as crowds set trash cans on fire and overturned at least one car. Eight were injured and approximately fifteen people were arrested.  

The next day, the GLF and GAA held a news conference at the gay-friendly Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, charging the police with harassment. They also denounced police inaction against a series of gay bashings and anti-gay harassment in the neighborhood. A police spokesman denied that there were any increased actions against the gay community, but refused further comment.

[Sources: Frank J. Brial. “Protest march by homosexuals sparks disturbance in ‘Village’.” The New York Times (August 30, 1970): 49.

C. Gerald Frasier. “‘Gay ghettos’ seen as police targets: but homosexuals’ charge of harassment denied.” The New York Times(August 31, 1970): 28.

Gay History: Remembering ROLLERINA: NYC's Fairy Godmother and Fierce LGBT Activist

Gay History: Remembering ROLLERINA: NYC’s Fairy Godmother and Fierce AIDS/LGBT Activist

Rollerina / Roller Arena/ Rollerena Fairy Godmother of NYC came into being on the evening of Saturday, September 16, 1972 by a young man, a stock broker and Vietnam Vet no less from Kentucky put on a gown, a 1950s hat, and a shawl and roller skated up and down Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York City.

 The creator of Rollerina, did not consider himself a drag queen or trans; instead he became the character of a Fairy Godmother of New York City and brought smiles to millions for over 25 years.

Over time, Rollerina added to his outfit: rhinestone glasses, costume jewelry, a small horn, and a magic wand to bless mortals became regular accessories to her character. He skated mostly in the gay neighborhoods, the Easter Parade, Gay Pride marches and in popular disco’s like Studio 54 and was a fierce gay rights activist.

As Rollerina became more well-known within and beyond the LGBT community, people began to request her presence at various events. She had a post office box, business representatives, disco events, postcards, and was featured in many newspaper articles, TV shows and radio talk programs.

In the 1980’s, he devoted herself to ACT-UP and other AIDS organizations. Her presence made a demonstration into an Event.

I have not been able to find any recent information on Rollerina since 2014 when he appeared at a club benefit.

Do you have any memories of or know of what happened to Rollerina?

If so help continue his story by adding to it in the comments below.

Wand, eyeglasses, roller skates, & purse used by Rollerena

Gay History 101 – WATCH: The Story Of “The Castro” – FULL Documentary

As many of you know a lot of my history posts tend to lean more towards New York City’s gay history mostly because that is where I hail from.  With that being said I would like to share with you a very interesting and great documentary I stumbled upon about the history of the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco.

Originally shown during the Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in 1996, The Castro is a 90-minute documentary tells the dramatic story of how a quiet corner of San Francisco became the cornerstone of a movement-an international symbol of gay liberation.

Using rare archival film and fresh contemporary footage, the story of the Castro’s transformation and history is told by the people who lived it: young and old, straight and gay. They bring to life a history ranging from the discriminatory world of the 1950s, through the flowering of “gay power,” and into the age of AIDS.

The Castro, was produced by KQED San Francisco/PBS  and won the George Foster Peabody Award, a CINE Golden Eagle Award and was   screened at numerous film festivals in the United States and abroad.

Its a must see to understand our past and why the community is so different today..

Gay History – July 28, 1961: Illinois Becomes First State to Rescind Sodomy Law By Mistake

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.