Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Civil Rights (LGBT)

Gay Rights Protest

Black and white photograph of demonstrators holding signs.

A group of feminist lesbians protest the death of City Council Bill 1275. Shortly after this photo was taken, the women were beaten and dragged from the City Council Chambers by authorities. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

In 1974 the Philadelphia City Council held hearings on Bill 1275. If passed, the bill would have added sexual orientation to the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, outlawing anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The bill was debated for more than a year and by late 1975, it had become clear that it would die in committee. While the Gay Activist Alliance planned to mourn the “death” of the bill with a silent vigil at City Hall, the newly formed Dyketactics, a group of young feminist lesbians, organized a protest of their own.

On December 4, Dyketactics entered City Hall armed with banners, signs, and a megaphone. They raised their fists during the opening prayer and after the meeting began, some chanted, “Free 1275!” Within moments, the Civil Disobedience Squad–a unit of plain-clothes police officers formed in 1964 to handle protesters–brutally beat and dragged the women from the Council Chamber. Six of the battered protesters later filed a fed¬er¬al law¬suit against the city of Philadelphia and the po¬lice de¬part¬ment, citing ex¬cess¬ive use of force. Although the defendants were found not guilty, Dyketactics et al. v. Fencl et al. marked a milestone in the struggle for gay rights.

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