The Julius’ Sip-In

The Julius’ Sip-In, New York City – April 21, 1966

In the 1960s the New York State Liquor Authority barred establishments from serving alcohol to homosexuals. To demonstrate against this discriminatory policy, members of the Mattachine Society took a page from the civil rights movement: They walked into Julius’ in New York’s West Village, announced they were homosexuals and asked to be served.

The bar had been raided a few days earlier, and a uniformed cop was stationed outside the door. “So we knew that Julius’ would not serve us because they have this thing pending,” former Mattachine Society chair Dick Leitsch told NPR. “When we walked in, the bartender put glasses in front of us, and we told him that we were gay and we intended to remain orderly. We just wanted service. And he said, ‘Hey, you’re gay, I can’t serve you,’ and he put his hands over the top of the glass.”

The men had tipped off the media and the Sip-In was covered in the Village Voice and The New York Times, which ran the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars.”

With the help of the ACLU, the Mattachine Society filed discrimination charges with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights. “The whole thing ended up in court,” said Leitsch, “and the court decided well, yes, the Constitution says that people have the right to peacefully assemble and the state can’t take that right away from you. And so the Liquor Authority can’t prevent gay people from congregating in bars.”

Leitsch says the Sip-In marked the first time the LGBT community really fought back and won in court. “We just sort of [took] in everything passively, didn’t do anything about it. And this time we did it—and we won.”

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