Saturday, June 23, 2018

Gay Rights Trailblazer, Dick Leitsch Dead at 83

After pouring their drinks, a bartender in Julius' refuses to serve John Timmons, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell and Randy Wicker, who were protesting New York liquor laws that prevented serving gay customers. (Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

The Washington Post reports:

Dick Leitsch, who became a leading gay rights activist in 1960s New York, where he helped end police entrapment of gays and organized the first major act of civil disobedience by a gay rights group — a boozy sit-in known as the Sip-In — died June 22 at a hospice center in Manhattan. He was 83.

The cause was liver cancer, said a niece, Cheryl Williams.

A bartender, freelance journalist and onetime Tiffany sales representative, Mr. Leitsch was a self-described “hick from Kentucky who didn’t known anything about gay rights” when he followed a boyfriend to New York in 1959. He soon became a member and young leader of the Mattachine Society, an early gay advocacy group named after a group of medieval jesters who, disguised by masks, protested the oppression of peasants.

Mr. Leitsch rarely donned a mask himself. After being named president of the organization’s New York chapter in 1965, he took the group in a more aggressive direction, taking on the city’s police chief and newly elected liberal mayor, John V. Lindsay, in campaigns that drew on the tactics of the African American civil rights movement and became a model for other gay rights groups across the country.

See full story here.  Read more about the Sip-In here.

Dick Leitsch, left, and Randy Wicker, two participants in the 1966 “Sip-In,” at Julius’
in the West Village. Credit: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

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