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Discovering the LGBT Library: The March on Albany
While perusing the digital collections for images from the 1970 Christopher Street Liberation March, I came across pictures from another event that seemed to be just as enthusiastic and amazing --- the March on Albany in 1971.
Oddly enough, I had never heard of the March on Albany so I decided to do a little bit of research. After checking out the LGBT Life with Full Text Database (available only onsite at the Library) I ventured down to the Microform Reading Room and checked out a couple of issues of The Advocate from 1971.
According the The Advocate, between 2,500-3,000 persons marched in the state capital to demand civil rights for homosexuals. Their quoted demands included:
1) Scrapping the sodomy law, which defined homosexual sex as a sex crime.
2) Repeal of the solicitation law which criminalized expressions of sexual interest between people of the same sex.
3) An end to the statutes against cross-dressing and impersonation.
4) Fair employment equal opportunity legislation for gays.
5) Legislation outlawing discrimination against gays in housing and public accommodations.
6) Repeal of the loitering laws used to entrap gay men who were seen as "cruising for sex."
Photo by Wandel.
Before the march even began, participants were met with a number of threatening phone calls including reports that a gang from the suburbs were planning on attacking the marchers and threats that a sniper may even be along the march route. Thankfully, nothing quite so extreme interrupted the demonstration, but the marchers did encounter egg and snow ball throwing as well as occasional verbal harassment.
A bus full of the marchers on their way to the event were also turned away from a rest stop after making a number of heterosexuals at the stop "uptight." The state police told the bus driver that it would be a good idea not to make any more stops until they reached Albany for their own safety.
A Unitarian Church in the area hosted a dance and open house the Saturday before the event bringing the participants together before the march itself. As Jim Owles said in his speech at the rally "We're here to shake them up...to demand an immediate end to all oppressive laws against all gays and full and equal treatment and the same rights guaranteed to every minority."
Photo by Wandel.
The march itself included participants from all over the state of New York including Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca and Utica. Some of the NY groups represented were the Daughters of Bilitis, The Gay Liberation Front Women, Gay People at Columbia, the Gay Activist Alliance of Long Island, The Mattachine Society, Queens, the Radical Lesbians and STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries).
The march concluded with a series of short speeches given by representatives from most of the organizations present. Kate Millett, a bisexual feminist author and activist who wrote Sexual Politics (offering a critique of patriarchy and heterosexism in Western society and literature) was one of those speakers. Though she initially declined to speak, she got swept away with the spirit of the event and offered: "All we've ever known was shame. We were feeling proud and we liked ourselves and we were free, and we were beginning to show them that we meant to stay that way. And they've got to know that now."