December 21, 1969– The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was founded in NYC.
The always charming Senator Ted Cruz has announced his intention to reintroduce The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and he is rather certain to succeed this time, with the White Nationalist Party (GOP) in control of Congress, and with you-know-who and Mike “Electrocute The Gays” Pence in The White House.
FADA would prohibit our Federal Government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business, or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. FADA would grant the right of any entity to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on their deeply held beliefs that: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” This would include doctors, hospitals, ambulance drivers, employers, and landlords, not just bakeries, florists and pizza joints.
Ironically, the bill’s language positions the right to discriminate against one class of Americans as a “First Amendment Right”, and then forbids our government from taking any form of action to squelch that discrimination, including withholding Federal funds from institutions that discriminate. FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue our Federal Government for interfering in their God given right to discriminate against LGBTQ people and would mandate the Justice Department to defend those individuals or businesses.
A year after The Stonewall Riots in June 1969, dissident members of the Gay Liberation Front broke away from that organization and started their own new group. They felt that the GLF had grown complacent and lacked focus.
Their NYC headquarters, an old Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street in SoHo was burned down by anti-gay arsonists in October, 1974.
The Gay Activists Alliance stood for writing The Revolution into law. Although individual members could support causes not directly related to the oppression of gay people, GAA’s single issue focus enabled it to direct all of its energy toward working intensively in, on, with, and against The Establishment on issues effecting gays and lesbians.
The GAA mission statement read:
“We demand our Liberation from repression and to the point where repressive laws are removed from the books and our rights are written into the documents that protect the rights of all people, for without that writing there can be no guarantees of protection from the larger society.”
GAA members performed what they called “Zaps”, public peaceful confrontations with officials and public figures in order to draw media attention to the cause. Some of the more visible Zaps included protests against an anti-gay episode on the popular television series Marcus Welby MD, a Zap of handsome NYC Mayor John Lindsay at the Metropolitan Museum and at Radio City Music Hall, a Zap against NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a Zap at NYC’s Marriage License Bureau demanding Marriage Equality for gay people, a zap against Fidelifacts, which provided Anti-Gay information to employers and landlords, a Zap at the NYC Taxi Commission, which required gay cab drivers to get permission from a psychiatrist before being employed, and a Zap at the NY Daily News, which had printed an editorial attacking: “queers, lezzies, pansies, call them what you will.”
The group also Zapped CBS and ABC News to protest anti-gay slant in their reporting. Popular talk show host Dick Cavett, who was making relentless anti-gay comments, was forced to give time to GAA spokespeople on his nationally broadcast television show after a single Zap and the threat of more where that came from. Liberal Cavett (possible closet case?) became an ally of sorts.
The symbol of the Gay Activists Alliance was the lower case Greek letter lambda (λ). GAA remains the oldest continuously active gay organization in the USA. In 1986, under the organization’s first woman president Lorri Jean, the Gay Activists Alliance changed its name to the Gay And Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA). The organization also gave birth to Gay Activists Alliance International, which also still exists today, working for the rights of gay people in the most those countries most hostile to equality.
The times they are a-changin’. Revolutions rarely remain what its originators had planned. The Gay Liberation Front found that out when Gay Activists Alliance was born and then moved forward. GAA discovered the same thing after the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell and the Defense Of Marriage Act and the gain of Marriage Equality. It is all part of our history.
Our vitality and our very survival is now threatened. We remain a unique social and political power in a nation in the control of Fascists. Will new groups form and rise up? What will our actions be? Here is the links to the GLAA.