Columns » Blake Pontchartrain: New Orleans Trivia

Blake Pontchartrain: What was the Gay Liberation Front of New Orleans?

More about the ‘70s LGBT organization and its Sunflower newsletter


Hey Blake,

I heard New Orleans had a group called the Gay Liberation Front. What was it and what did it do?

Dear Reader,

  Gay liberation groups formed on the East and West coasts after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York's Greenwich Village, where police clashed with demonstrators following a raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar. The New Orleans chapter of the Gay Liberation Front was short-lived, but many people call it one of the first important civil rights organizations for the LGBT community.

  In his book, Rebels, Rubyfruit and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South, author James Thomas Sears writes that the New Orleans chapter of the Gay Liberation Front formed in the fall of 1970. He says the group raised money by hosting Sunday buffet dinners and dances, and established a newsletter, Sunflower. Many historians call it the first gay publication in Louisiana.

  By January 1971, the group claimed about 300 active members, both gay and heterosexual. About 75 of them marched on City Hall that month, carrying signs denouncing "intimidation, brutality and terror tactics" of local police against gays and lesbians, according to The Times-Picayune. The newspaper said that in the group's newsletter, copies of which were handed out at the march, three separate incidents were described "in which homosexuals were allegedly entrapped by vice squad agents" at the French Quarter's Cabrini Playground. The group demanded an end to police harassment and hostility against gay men and women, as well as the formation of a panel to investigate complaints about such harassment.

  In June 1971, the group commemorated the anniversary of the Stonewall incident with a "gay-in" in New Orleans City Park, according to writer and historian Roberts Batson. That event likely helped inspire the first Southern Decadence event, which was held the following year. By then, the local Gay Liberation Front had disbanded.

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