Philly LGBTQ History

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Independence Hall Philly

Arch Street Meeting House, Philadelphia, PA (Photo courtesy of: WikiData, Searched October 1, 2019)

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA (Photo courtesy of: National Park Service, Searched October 1, 2019)

With the start of LGBTQ History Month, it is appropriate for our new blog posts to feature historical locations, people, and events. Today, we examine the Arch Street Meeting House and Independence Mall in Philadelphia. These buildings served as host to some of the earliest LGBTQ civil rights activism organizing in the United States. On July 4, 1965, some four years before the Stonewall Riots in New York City, activists met in front of Independence Hall to demand legislation to protect the LGBTQ community and provide rights as a minority group.

 

According to back2stonewall.com, inspired by Frank Kameny’s White House picket protest in Washington DC on April 17, 1965, Craig Rodwell, a New York City advocate and activist organized members of the Mattachine Society, the Janus Society, and the Daughters of Billitis to gather in front of Liberty Hall. In all, 40 protesters attended for what was then the largest organized gathering to demand rights for the LGBTQ community. The protest was called “Reminder Day” and reoccurred for the next five consecutive years. After having lived through the Lavender Scare of the 1950s, Frank Kameny insisted that protesters in Washington DC dress in proper business attire to portray the homosexuals as “presentable and employable.” Signs at the Philadelphia protest had slogans such as “Homosexual Bill of Rights” and “15 MILLION HOMOSEXUAL AMERICANS ASK FOR EQUALITY, OPPORTUNITY, AND DIGNITY.

 

On October 14, 1979, approximately 100,000 protesters participated in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Planning for this massive protest began in earnest between February 23 – 25, 1979 when 300 LGBT activists and advocates from across the country gathered in Philadelphia. Most meeting places denied LGBTQ people the opportunity to use their space to discuss the upcoming March, but the Quaker Arch Street Meeting House opened their doors. According to equalityforum.com, the planners of the March were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963, and advocates such as Harvey Milk of San Francisco. The 1979 March, and those that would follow in 1987, 1993, and 2000 have played an integral role in raising awareness of the demand for equal treatment under the law for the entire LGBTQ community.

 

Editor’s note: During October, we will feature a new blog post each day about the historical significance of LGBTQ events and people. If you would like to contribute story ideas for this blog page, please email: dmoore@paequality.com.