In 1966, three gay men in New York, inspired by the sit-ins in the South, protested anti-gay laws with a “sip-in” at a Manhattan bar. At the time, it was illegal for bartenders to serve LGBTQ people. Of course, this didn’t pose much of a problem, as you can’t conclusively determine someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity just by looking at them. So Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker went to a bar called Julius’ in the West Village, told the bartender they were gay, and ordered drinks. They were refused, which set the wheels in motion by legal organizations (including my favorite, the ACLU) to challenge the New York liquor authority.
This is one of many examples of LGBTQ protest before Stonewall, and it’s clear that Dick, Craig, and Randy — who were members of the Mattachine Society — were influenced by the Civil Rights Movement.
Fun fact: Julius’ wasn’t chosen at random. At the time, it was well known as a gay hangout. However, it has just been raided by police, so the bartenders were being more stringent as usual. Of course, knowing the law, even at place like Julius’, no one would have announced their sexual orientation before ordering a drink.
Another fun fact: Julius’ is still in business and it’s celebrated as NYC’s oldest gay bar.