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social sciences

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Homophile Movement, U. S.  
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In 1966 a series of meetings in Kansas City, Missouri resulted in the formation of NACHO, the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations. With more than 80 delegates (about a dozen of them women), the August conference was the largest homophile gathering to that date. NACHO met annually through the rest of the 1960s. It brought suit in discrimination cases, coordinated further demonstrations, and argued against the internalized self-hatred they perceived to be underlying the accommodationist approach.

Homophile Activism in San Francisco

In San Francisco homophile activism evolved against the backdrop of the Beat poets' celebration of nonconformity and in reaction to police crackdowns against gay bars. Several significant organizations were founded in the early 1960s. The League for Civil Education formed in April 1961; its LCE News took an activist tone aimed at the bar scene.

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In 1962 gay bar owners formed the Tavern Guild to provide legal help for patrons arrested in police raids.

The Society for Individual Rights (SIR) was founded in September 1963. It recognized the community-organizing potential among bar patrons and sponsored social and political events, including venereal disease education, bowling nights, voter registration, and political endorsements. It grew to 1000 members in its first year, becoming the largest homophile organization in the country.

Internal Conflicts

This outreach was a starkly different tack than that taken by Mattachine and DOB, whose organizational energies were sapped by internal tensions and personality conflicts in the 1960s. In 1965 the militant faction in control of New York Mattachine became embroiled in financial misconduct. In 1966 angry reactions to Gittings' support of the new activism in The Ladder resulted in her leaving DOB.

Later on, Barbara Grier's and Rita Laporte's use of The Ladder to champion feminist views also proved to be too polemical for the membership and precipitated a schism in DOB. An irreconcilable rift at ONE, Inc. required litigation and led to the split-off of Tangents magazine in 1965.

National leadership often conflicted with local sovereignty. Mattachine dissolved its national structure in 1961. DOB would do the same in 1970. Some local chapters of the organizations, however, continued to operate into the 1970s and served as entry points for individuals who were coming out.

Council on Religion and the Homosexual

Collaboration with the liberal religious community was another important development in San Francisco. Glide Memorial Methodist Church had long been a presence working with the down-and-out in the Tenderloin district. In 1962, with the consultation of SIR, DOB, and the Tavern Guild, it developed an outreach to young gay street hustlers.

Toward the end of 1964 this collaboration developed into the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH). To launch its fundraising efforts, CRH, with DOB and Mattachine, sponsored a New Year's Eve dance. When police descended on the event, making multiple "inspections" and several arrests, heterosexual supporters and clergy witnessed first-hand the degrading treatment gay men and lesbians had been subjected to for years. With backing from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRH successfully challenged the police in court and generated important media coverage.

CRH continued documenting police abuse cases and helped start Citizens Alert to respond to such incidents, resulting in a significant decrease in harassment of gay bar patrons. It maintained an outreach to the National Council of Churches throughout the 1960s.

The Late 1960s and the Dawn of the Gay Liberation Movement

In San Francisco SIR opened the country's first gay community center in April 1966. 1967 saw a major demonstration against police brutality in Los Angeles and publication of the first issue of The Advocate. That December the Western Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations met in Seattle.

By the time of the Stonewall riots in 1969, SIR had pulled back into a more reformist stance and was nearly bankrupt, but there were over 50 other homophile organizations in North America, many of them ready to embrace a new militancy.

Even militant homophile leaders were caught off-guard by Stonewall and its immediate aftermath. The year between the riots and their first commemoration in 1970 saw an explosive proliferation of groups such as the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance, in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, but also in Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Detroit.

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