Arrested for a New Year’s Kiss

31 Dec

Tonight, after you finish the countdown, commemorate the moment with a tribute to what happened December 31, 1966. At the stroke of midnight, make sure you kiss him “on the mouth for three to five seconds.”

The men and women at San Francisco’s Black Cat, a small gay bar, were awaiting that magical moment – that second where men and women around the world make that declaration of love to enter the new year. The seconds ticked to zero, and like millions of others, the couples at the Black Cat locked lips and welcomed 1967.

At that moment, at least eight plainclothes officers emerged from the crowd and began viciously beating and arresting the kissing couples. As these kisses constituted criminal “lewd conduct,” the arrests and the raid on the bar were seen as legal. The officers refused to identify themselves as the violence escalated and they began ripping holiday decorations from the walls. A bartender was dragged by the police over and across the bar through broken shards of glass. A customer had his head bashed into a jukebox and was then arrested.

Nearby, at the New Faces bar, similar attacks and arrests were occurring. When the female co-owner and  asked police for identification, she was mistaken for a man in drag (another arrestable offense) and pistol whipped so badly that she had to be hospitalized. Robert Haas, a 120-pound waiter came from the back of the bar to help. He was dragged into the street and beaten so severely that his jaw was broken and his spleen ruptured. He was then booked and charged for felony assault against a police officer before being taken to Los Angeles County General Hospital for treatment.

Six Black Cat kissers were tried and convicted of “lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place”, which consisted of male couples hugging and kissing. According to the police report, one couple had “kissed on the mouth for three to five seconds.”

Two years prior to the Stonewall Uprising, these events energized the LGBT community to begin fighting back. They raised money for a legal defense fund and successfully fought the police and the charges in the courts. Additionally, they were able to get some of the mainstream media on their side. The telling of our stories in a public forum helped turn the tide for San Francisco to finally elect someone like Harvey Milk to public office.

As we enter 2012, spend some time being grateful for the enormous strides we’ve made – specifically in 2011. But don’t forget that we have a long way to go. Keep telling your stories as we move ahead and keep talking about equality.

Happy New Year!

4 Responses to “Arrested for a New Year’s Kiss”

  1. jerry pritikin January 1, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Thanks for reminding me and others that the fight for gay rights has not been easy and at cost to many pioneers. When I first arrived in San Francisco from Chicago in 1960, there were laws on the City’s books that if you wanted to dress in drag(not my forte) you had to wear a lapel tag “I AM A BOY”, or you could be arrested,even on Halloween! There were signs in a popular restaurant… “if your Queer,stay out of here!”. Many courageous drag queens,fought back to change those laws. One of them, Jose Sarria, who now has a Street named after him in San Francisco, entertained at the S.”F. Black Cat and used to get up on the bar counter, and sing God Save the Queens”, when ever the bar was raided. His entered the race for S.F. Supervisor in 1961 as an openly gay person 15 years before Harvey Milk and begat gay politics. So for all you youngsters… remember a gay kiss was not a kiss,always… it was unlawful. Thanks for articles like this, as a reminder how far we have come, and we are not equal yet! Happy New Year !

  2. T June 16, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    I will go to my grave not excepting gay’s I will not tolerate them in my family that goes for my grandkids too. It is sick and I do not believe it should be legal. Will never except it.

    • Jamie McGonnigal June 16, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

      That’s okay. We’ll never accept your utter lack of any comprehension of grammar or spelling. I was born gay, having terrible grammar is a choice.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I said yes. #SuckitNOM « Talk About Equality - January 1, 2012

    […] HAPPY NEW YEAR! I kissed him for 3-5 seconds like I promised in yesterday’s blog post and pulled back to see Sean’s eyes filled with tears. He leaned back in and said in my ear, […]

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