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social sciences

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Homophile Movement, U. S.  
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In January 1958, however, the United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed the findings of the lower courts. This major victory was crucial to the growth of the homophile movement, for it made possible communication and organization on a much larger scale than had previously been possible.

New Visibility

Despite the successes of the homophile organizations, their views reached relatively few people. At the height of its influence, ONE Magazine had a subscription list of little more than 5000. By the end of the 1950s, membership in homophile organizations numbered only in the hundreds, well short of the groundswell needed to effect significant legal and social reforms.

Sponsor Message.

Political turmoil in the 1960s, however, provided new models for social change that some homophile activists were ready to embrace. Against the concerns of some that the homophile movement would become associated with fringe or "beatnik" elements, visibility became an important tactic for the new militants.

Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols launched the autonomous Mattachine Society of Washington [D.C.] in 1961 with an activist point of view from the beginning. They allied with the local Civil Liberties Union in a vigorous campaign against anti-gay discrimination in the U.S. Civil Service Commission, in the military, and in the granting of security clearances.

The following year Randy Wicker formed the Homosexual League of New York and actively sought to bring media attention to gay issues.

These individuals represented a new breed of organizers who had no patience with apologetics or with cultivating the endorsement of professional authority figures. Brandishing "Gay Is Good" banners, they actively challenged the prevailing psychiatric illness model of homosexuality.


In January 1963 Kameny convened the first meetings of what would become ECHO: East Coast Homophile Organizations. Representatives from Mattachine organizations in Washington, D.C. and New York, the Janus Society of Philadelphia, and the Daughters of Bilitis met monthly to develop strategies. Among the regular participants were Barbara Gittings, Kay Lahusen, and Craig Rodwell.

ECHO activists were responsible for the first gay rights demonstrations. On April 16, 1965 they simultaneously picketed at the United Nations headquarters (to protest the Cuban government's treatment of homosexuals) and the White House (to protest federal hiring policies). On May 29 ECHO demonstrated in front of the Civil Service building, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House, and on July 4 in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

These demonstrations generally drew 20 to 40 picketers (but more than 70 at the White House) and were very orderly events, especially when compared to the raucous and rebellious tone of anti-war protests of the time. Because they focused on employment discrimination, demonstrators dressed in office attire, heeding Kameny's rationale that "if we want to be employed by the federal government we have to look employable to the federal government."

These activities yielded modest results, such as meetings with Civil Service personnel and some media attention. The group held yearly demonstrations, called "Annual Reminders," at Independence Hall every Fourth of July through 1969.

New York's Mattachine chapter crusaded against police abuses throughout the late 1960s. In the spring of 1967 the Student Homophile League at Columbia University became the first campus gay and lesbian organization.

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