The Prehistory of Marriage Equality: Watch a 1971 Protest at NYC's Marriage License Bureau

The Atlantic
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March 27, 2013
Issues: 

The gay-marriage fight, which this week reaches a major milestone with the Supreme Court hearing arguments about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage prohibitions, may seem like your classic 21st century culture war battle. But the first skirmishes did not take place in the 21st century. They didn't take place in the 1990s. They didn't even take place in the 1980s. Go back further than that, to June 4, 1971. Less than two years after the Stonewall uprising, a group of men and women from the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) walked into the New York City Marriage License Bureau carrying coffee urns and boxes of cake to hold an engagement party for two male couples and to protest the "slander" of City Clerk Herman Katz, who had threatened legal action against same-sex "holy unions" being performed -- yes, already then, in 1971 -- by the Church of the Beloved Disciple, which had a largely gay congregation.