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Gay History: Chicago Whispers
by Sukie de la Croix
2003-10-15

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Part 3 of the Chicago Gay Crusader series.

Last week we looked at Gay Pride Week in the second issue of the Chicago Gay Crusader monthly newspaper published in June 1973 ...

Politics …

Demonstrators protesting Ann Landers statement that 'homosexuals are sick' march up State Street May 26, 1973, and then along N. Michigan Avenue for a two-hour picket outside the Hancock Building; where Landers was thought to live. The demonstration was sponsored by the Gay Caucus of Youth Against War and Fascism (YAWF), and drew a crowd of 27, mostly women.

Landers had written the offensive remark in her March 5 column, and reaffirmed her position again April 24.

+++

Members of the statewide Illinois Gays for Legislative Action gathered on the Illinois State University campus in Normal, Ill., May 12 to assess the group's progress in securing protection for gays through government action.

Chief projects at the time were 1) To induce Illinois Gov. Daniel Walker to issue an executive order forbidding job discrimination by the state and firms doing business with the state on grounds of 'sexual orientation,' and 2) To work for introduction and passage of legislation by the General Assembly to forbid such discrimination by employers generally.

+++

More than 30 lesbians and gays protested their exclusion from the 44th Ward Assembly's annual fundraising fair May 20. Illinois Gays for Legislative Action, the only gay group holding membership in Ald. Dick Simpson's advisory assembly, sponsored the picket.

In 1972, the 44th Ward Fair had included an exhibit by the ward's gay organizations. However, in 1973, the clergy of St. Alphonsus Church refused to rent the Athenaeum Theater unless the rental contract stipulated that 'groups contrary to church policy' be kept out. After IGLA and Ald. Simpson's fair committee unsuccessfully tried to get St. Alphonsus to change its mind, the committee went ahead and signed the discriminatory contract.

Studs Terkel, who attended the Fair, asked a demonstrator her reasons for picketing, and when told he became outraged and vowed 'to blast 'em.' He later took the stage at the Fair and to resounding applause voiced a fiery denunciation of the gays' exclusion. The protest was covered in an article in the May 19 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Drugs …

A drug-abuse program called Alternatives opens. The gay staff person was 'active lesbian-feminist' Susan Kahn, and Henry Weimhoff, who co-founded the Chicago Gay Liberation Front, was one of the volunteers.

Religion …

The Good Shepherd Parish of the Metropolitan Community Church celebrated its 3rd anniversary with a reception on May 10.

Corrupt Cops …

Another six Chicago Avenue district policemen are indicted by a Federal grand jury for extortion from Near North bars, bringing to 47 the number facing Federal charges in tavern shake-downs. Two gay bars, the King's Ransom and the New Jamie's, were mentioned in the June 1 indictment. In earlier indictments, nearly every other Near North gay bar operating from 1966 to 1970 was named as a victim.

The former owner of another bar, Ira Gruenberg of the Nite Life, was indicted for perjury in denying that he made payoffs.

Drag …

Charles Pierce performs at the Baton.

In May, members of the Chicago Gay Alliance and Illinois Gays for Legislative Action, met with 20th Ward Ald. Clifford P. Kelley to discuss ways in which the City Council could revise the Municipal Code so that it would no longer oppress gays but would protect their rights. Kelley informed the groups that at a June 6 City Council meeting he would introduce a code amendment to delete the part of section 192-8 which made it illegal to ' … appear in a public place … in a dress not belonging to his or her sex, with intent to conceal his or her sex … '

sukie@windycitymediagroup.com

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