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1986 Protest

RFT Margaret Flowing Johnson

A History of Protests

By Margaret "Flowing" Johnson, Show Me No Hate Blog, November 2008

I thought you might like a little history on LBGT protests at the Old Court House. When the Supreme Court supported the conviction of Hardwick for sodomy (Bowers vs Hardwick, June 30, 1986) we also held a protest at the Old Court House. We chose it because of the Dred Scott decision and connected the Hardwick decision to it.

But, the story of the protest is very different than this internet organized event. I heard about the decision on a news report in my car on my way home at 11 PM on the night of June 30. I was both outraged and dismayed. Outraged by the decision, of course, and then dismayed that I didn't even know the Supreme Court was hearing the case. That was the state of the Lesbian and Gay movement at the time - our oppression wasn't particularly news worthy.

I was an activist in a Lesbian direct action group called Women Rising in Resistance. When I got home I raged with my partner and then began calling the other activists. None of them knew of the decision. I also called some gay men (including Jim Thomas, editor of the Gay News Telegraph) and told them of it and they began calling friends. The next night we had over 100 people at the old courthouse protesting the decision. It was the one of the first actions protesting the decision in the country.

Later, I was part of the national organizing committee to organize a non-violent civil disobedience at the U. S. Supreme Court to protest the Hardwick decision. It was connected to a March on Washington held on Oct 11, 1987.

The civil disobedience was on Oct 13, 1987. It was the largest arrest action since the Vietnam War, over 600 people were arrested, and we actually closed access to the Supreme Court building for an hour - the first and last time that has happened. Since then, the courts have overturned the Hardwick decision by other decisions.

Most of the media had ignored the March on Washington held two days before - it was a massive turnout but most media, including the St Louis Post Dispatch, Newsweek, etc ignored it. But, they could not and did not ignore the action at the Supreme Court. That action launched the Lesbian and Gay movement onto a national stage. (The lesbian and gay movement later added bisexual, transgendered, and questioning to our alphabet of oppression.)

Photo by Jennifer Silverberg, Riverfront Times

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