Philly Pride, together with other groups in our community, will be remembering and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1965 LGBT picketing at Independence Hall, and will be making it the centerpiece of our 2015 PrideDay Gay Pride Parade and Festival. PrideDay is June 14, 2015, just a short four weeks before the 50th Anniversary of this informational picket, July 4, 2015.
The following history is taken in part from Back2Stonewall:
On July 4, 1965, and for the next four years, gay rights activists gathered outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia carrying picket signs and demanding legislation that would secure the rights of LGBT Americans. Referencing the self-evident truth mentioned in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” the activists called for legislative changes that would improve the lives of American homosexuals. Activist Craig Rodwell conceived of the event following an April 17, 1965 picket at the White House led by Frank Kameny and members of the New York City and Washington, D.C. chapters of the Mattachine Society, Philadelphia’s Janus Society and the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitus. The groups operated under the collective name East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO).
It was called the “Annual Reminder” to remind the American people that a substantial number of American citizens were denied the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Enthused by Rodwell’s idea, ECHO put together the first Reminder picket in just over two months. Thirty-nine people attended the first picket, including veteran activists Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Kay Tobin. As with the Washington, D.C. picket Kameny insisted on a strict dress code for participants, including jackets and ties for the men and dresses for the women. Kameny’s goal was to represent homosexuals as “presentable and employable.” Picketers carried signs with such slogans as “HOMOSEXUAL BILL OF RIGHTS” and “15 MILLION HOMOSEXUAL AMERICANS ASK FOR EQUALITY, OPPORTUNITY, DIGNITY“.
The Annual Reminders continued through July 4, 1969. The last Annual Reminder took place less than a week after the June 28 Stonewall riots. Rodwell received several telephone calls threatening him and the other New York participants, but he was able to arrange for police protection for the chartered bus all the way to Philadelphia. About 45 people participated. The Annual Reminders were commemorated in 2005 by the placement of a Pennsylvania state historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at 6th and Chestnut Streets where it is viewed by thousands of visitors daily.