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From the really radical same-sex marriage files: A protest from 1971(VIDEO)

While Supreme Court coverage over two potentially decisive blows to the anti-gay marriage movement continues to spill over, the Atlantic.com has unearthed some amazing video from a same-sex marriage protest from 1971.

The video, posted in three approximately ten-minute segments on YouTube, shows the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA), one of two major gay organizations to form shortly after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, raiding the New York City Marriage License Bureau  over ‘slanderous’ remarks made by its City Clerk Herman Katz. Katz had threatened to sue the Church of the Beloved Disciple, which had a sizable gay congregation, over “holy unions” being performed between members of the same sex.

It’s important to remember, and what the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta ably points out, is that the goal of same-sex marriage isn’t a recent construct. The idea, wildly radical for its time (when the mere fact of being gay could land you in jail), was wrapped up in a multi-headed revolution that saw as its goals the decriminalization of being gay (watered down and commercially transmogrified into today’s American Apparel slogan ‘Legalize Gay’), the end of discrimination in housing and accommodation, the removal of homosexuality as a “disorder” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and, although significantly more complex during the Vietnam era, the end of the ban on gay men and women serving in the military.

“A real movement for gay marriage could only become possible once other legal and cultural battles were won,” Franke-Ruta correctly observes. “In the 1980s, AIDS became the focus of the gay community’s activism. And the state laws criminalizing gay sex were not struck down, finally and by the Supreme Court, until 2003; that same year, it’s worth noting, Evan Wolfson started his Freedom to Marry group. For cultural and strategic reasons, the early gay-rights movement made its priority changing other widely held anti-gay views and laws.”

In part one, Randolfe Wicker, arguably the most well-known gay rights activist of the 1960s, conducts an interview with the church’s pastor to discuss the legality of the ceremonies being performed and discusses his call for action, albeit reluctantly (“This is not an issue at this particular time that we want to be arrested for.”). In part two, the GAA enters the bureau, led by activist Arthur Evans, announces their intentions, sets up their engagement party accoutrement – coffee urns, plates, utensils and cake – then marches into Katz’s office chanting “bigot.” The third video culminates with a protest song, sung to the lyrics of “He’s got the whole word in his hands,” with activist Peter Fisher at the helm.

In a telling aside, a man asks a bystander, “Any comment?” to which the woman replies, “I just hope they’re very happy.” Perhaps that woman is still alive to realize that the victories we are on the cusp of achieving will make us and those that made it possible over forty years ago very happy indeed.


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Posted by on Mar 28, 2013. Filed under Online Only, Top Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “From the really radical same-sex marriage files: A protest from 1971(VIDEO)”

  1. Wiki sez: A marriage of two men was performed by a Catholic priest in the 11 century in Spain. This is far from a new concept.

  2. What is new, however, is the idea that the people rose up to demand access to an institution that had been in place and in myriad forms since well before the 11th century but only to opposite-sex couples. That you’re arguing the point that this isn’t “new” seems to miss the whole point of the article entirely.

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