Council on Religion and the Homosexual Ball

Council on Religion and the Homosexual Ball, San Francisco – January 1, 1965

Established in 1964 to foster a dialogue between clergy and gays, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual held a lavish drag ball at San Francisco’s California Hall on New Year’s Day 1965. The group had worked diligently to follow municipal code and even told the SFPD about the party.

Police were dissuaded from pressuring the hall to cancel the party, but they showed up with kleig lights and cameras to snap photos of attendees, including clergymen and their wives. Officers also repeatedly entered the venue under the guise of “making an inspection.” When attorneys retained for such an eventuality challenged police intrusion into a private event, they were arrested. (The ticket taker at the front door was also picked up, as were two male guests.)

The next morning, clergy leaders held a press conference decrying police harassment of homosexuals. Their public action inspired San Francisco’s nascent gay rights movement—and the incident at California Hall is often described as San Francisco’s Stonewall.

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