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Mattachine Society Sip In

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Julius Bar, near hidden in the West Village area of Manhattan, is one of the oldest bars in New York City. The establishment became a staple in gay history after the New York Chapter of the Mattachine Society, the oldest gay rights organization in the U.S., staged a "sip in" on April 21, 1966 in protest to the State Liquor Authority's regulations against serving homosexuals in bars. There was no legal statute prohibiting gay people from being served in bars, but the SLA often raided and fined establishment with homosexual patrons, under the guise of "disorderly conduct." When gays did enter bars, they were either kicked out, refused service or asked to sit facing away from customers to prevent cruising.

In response to the SLA's discriminatory policy, then society president Dick Leitsch, John Timmons and Craig Rodwell organized a "sip in," modeled after the civil rights sit ins. Their plan was to enter a bar, stay orderly and announce that they were gay. Once they were refused service, Mattachine would sue the establishment and the SLA.

They chose Julius Bar because it had a sign in the window stating, "This is a raided premises." The SLA had a pending case against the establishment, thus the Mattachine boys knew that the bar not only wouldn't, but couldn't serve them. So, they entered, asked for service, as planned, and were refused.

No law was overturned as a result of the sip in, but the New York City Commission on Human Rights later declared that homosexuals had the right to be served. The sip in was a catalyst for gay rights protests in the West Village and led to the opening of private clubs for gays like the Stonewall Inn. Three years later, in the same neighborhood, young queer people started the stonewall riots in protest to continued police harassment.

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